Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Every breath counts

The names of the three soldiers killed by an IED today in Afghanistan have been released: Private Joel Vincent Wiebe, Corporal Stephen Frederick Bouzane, and Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, all of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry*. Our condolences here at The Torch go out to the friends and family, both military and civilian, of the courageous deceased.

As someone who never had the honour of meeting these men, I was especially saddened to hear of the loss of Sgt Karigiannis, a fellow whose personality shone through in a widely published letter just over a week ago:

The following letter was sent to Maclean's by Sgt. Chris Karigiannis of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, Charles Company, 2nd Platoon, currently stationed in Kandahar:

"As I sit here at my checkpoint writing this letter, the soldiers in my section are maintaining watch in the towers that surround our perimeter. Those not on security are playing chess, taking a nap or going through a box full of magazines and other reading material. Hence the purpose of my letter. Maclean's continues to be my preferred source for Canadian news while I am deployed on operations in Afghanistan ...

"Now that I have mentioned the reading of Maclean's, I need to make mention of another important item, the University Student Issue (April 2, 2007) with the cover photo of an extremely attractive young lady whose name I wish I knew..."

I wonder if Sgt Karigiannis would have written that letter from Canada? I wonder if, senses heightened by his work on the razor's edge in Kandahar, he decided to ignore social inhibitions and put his admiration out there in a heartfelt and honest, but articulate and gentlemanly way? One hears, speaking with those who have been there, that sometimes life comes sharply into focus under such pressure, and the need to live each moment to its fullest becomes imperative.

I hope Chris Karigiannis and his mates were savouring each and every breath until the last.

*This information comes from the official DND press releases, although the Maclean's article cites Sgt Karigiannis' unit as 2RCR. I doubt they made that up, and suspect it was appended to the fellow's letter, but there seems to be some confusion. Updated: he's wearing PPCLI cap brass in his official photo, so the reference to the RCR must be wrong.

Update: Maclean's weighs in, as does Joey Coleman, a former soldier and media blogger with the magazine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew the name but I couldn't place it. I imagine Ms. Ilyes will find his death hitting way too close to home and I can't help but feel a little sorry for her.

May our fallen Rest In Peace.

12:07 a.m., June 21, 2007  
Blogger Candace said...

Reg, you are probably right. I hope, though, that she takes comfort in providing a welcome distraction.

What a shame - this sounds like an accident, indeed, i.e. easily preventable.

My thoughts & prayers to family and friends of the lost.

1:58 a.m., June 21, 2007  
Blogger Cameron Campbell said...


12:50 p.m., June 21, 2007  
Blogger ann said...

Each time another one of our men are reported killed I see the image of my own son in each one of the published pictures. He is launching into his adulthood with joy full of hopes and dreams, engaged and connected to family and friends. Each one of those young men deserve this same chance at life. Now nothing. Such a horrific loss. These men will never experience a long lifetime rich with potential. Friends and family have been robbed of a long lifetime rich with this loving relationship. I ache when I think about the futility of this combat. I have never been in favour of Canada's role in this conflict. No one has able to change my perspective. With each new sacrificed Canadian my internal scream becomes louder. "Get the hell home!"

8:37 p.m., June 21, 2007  
Blogger said...

She even wrote back....

''A Maclean’s magazine cover girl, thrust into the spotlight after a Canadian soldier identified her as his pinup girl of choice, wished him a safe trip home just weeks before his death. “I wish you safety and hope to see you home soon,” said Kinga Ilyes, 24, in response to a letter from Sgt. Chris Karigiannis to Maclean’s magazine .... In response, Ilyes wished Karigiannis and his platoon safety and a quick return to Canada.''

9:12 p.m., June 21, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Ann, each death is a tragedy for the friends and family of the deceased. But to characterize those deaths as futile shortchanges the legacy of the soldiers who paid the ultimate price.

These soldiers have each left behind friends inspired by their hopeful example, family who can say with pride that their child or spouse or sibling or parent believed in something enough to die for it, and two countries - Afghanistan and Canada - immeasurably enriched by their efforts.

You see only the price. Our soldiers see the prize.

The Afghans themselves want our troops there to help them reach their feet, in overwhelming numbers. In fact, their support for the Canadian mission dwarfs our own.

When the Afghans are grateful for our help, and are working so hard to pull themselves out of the nightmare of war and oppression they've lived for decades now, I don't see how we can abandon them.

I invite you to go through the archives around here - we have some stories up about progress in Afghanistan not widely reported in the mainstream media. And we'll continue to note the good news that doesn't sell ad space or newsprint.

Listen to the soldiers themselves, and you might yet find yourself convinced.

9:17 p.m., June 21, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home