Monday, 16 March 2009

Christie Blatchford's "Fifteen Days: Tales of Strength and Honour"

I've just finished Christie Blatchford's Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army. I was much moved; occasionally to tears. She tells the stories behind the terse announcements and ramp ceremonies we see on the news. I was particularly impressed by a couple of things:

Women in Combat

I have to confess I've never really understood why women want to be combat soldiers. I guess I'm old fashioned (hopelessly patriarchal some might say). In my murky masculine way I've attributed it to some mis-directed feminist point-making. Blatchford's chapter on Nichola Goddard gave me some insight into that.

Nichola adopted a motto for herself which says much about what she thought she was doing: Strength and Honour. It was a Roman legion's motto in ages past and comes most recently from the movie, Gladiator. Interestingly, the only intact reference Blatchford could find is Proverbs 31.25 which is part of an ode to a capable wife: "Strength and honour are her clothing." (KJV)

So Nichola (and the other women in uniform I read about in the book) are not so much about making political gender statements as they are good, healthy, well thought out, sacrificial patriotic values.

I admire them.

Compassion, Heroism and Serving Others

I guess I've missed that on the news. I was much moved by the sheer heroism of the folk Blatchford describes. I am impressed by their commitment to helping the people of Afghanistan. I was touched to read of how, when they got home, the soldiers went out of their way to bless the families of those who had been killed.

Two stories stick with me in particular. Both have to do with Lieutenant-Colonels; Omar Lavoie, who because of the quality of his relationship with the people he commanded, was invited to walk the daughter of his recently killed RSM down the aisle at her wedding. The other, Ian Hope, who went out of his way to be the one to remove the torn body of one of his young soldiers from the G-Wagon in which he had been killed.

Strength and honour, indeed.

Language

One wee issue: for some reason Blatchford seems to have a need to out-cuss the soldiers (she says so herself ). I find myself wondering whether her use of the sixth letter word is a tad gratuitous. Puzzling that such a good writer should find it necessary to convey what is obviously deep emotion in such a vulgar way. Shock and awe, perhaps?