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This Letter From a Canadian Soldier Explains the Sacrifice of Veterans Everywhere

I was a 24-year-old private when I served with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Upon my return from that deployment in 2010, I wrote a letter for the students of Joseph Teres Elementary School in Winnipeg, which I attended as a child.

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HQ 6-09 TFK TOC SignallersPhoto: Courtesy of Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha

My name is Pte. Caitlin Yacucha and I am a soldier. My job is to set up and talk on radios and many other different pieces of technology. I have been in the military for five years and have travelled all over Canada.

The Canadian military has an important job in Canada. We provide aid for natural disasters, like the floods in Winnipeg or the ice storms in Quebec. It is important to us that Canadians understand what our mission is and that we have their support. That means a lot to soldiers, especially when they are far from home and their families.

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Canadian soldier helping child in AfghanistanPhoto: Courtesy of Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha

I went to Afghanistan from November 2009 to September 2010. That’s ten months, almost one year. When Canadian soldiers go overseas, we are trying to help the people of Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability. We try to help people and children by building schools, medical clinics and roads. We also help to train the Afghan army and police, so they can protect their own country.

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Battlefield in AfghanistanPhoto: Courtesy of Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha

I remember when I first arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after more than 15 hours of flying, and it was cold outside! Even though it’s in the desert, there is still winter. We didn’t get any snow though. And it was always really dusty. There was a lot of sand everywhere. When summer came, it started getting hot. Sometimes the temperature was more than 60° Celsius outside! It was definitely a different world over there, and it made soldiers happy to receive letters or packages that had little pieces of home inside. Sometimes our families sent us games or candy!

I was in Afghanistan over Christmas and I even had to work on Christmas morning. It was a great feeling coming in to work and seeing a whole pile of cards and letters from home. And they were from people we didn’t even know! But those letters reminded us of home and that even though we were far away, we hadn’t been forgotten.

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Canadian soldiers watching hockey game in AfghanistanPhoto: Courtesy of Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha

We tried to make the best of it though and we were lucky enough to have a Tim Hortons and a hockey rink on the main camp! We worked with lots of different nationalities too, like Americans, the British and Australians. It was fun making friends with people from other countries.

It wasn’t all fun though. Afghanistan is a theatre of war and there were a lot of times that our camp was attacked by rockets that exploded within our fences. We could always hear guns firing and helicopters and fighter jets screaming through the sky. There were too many times that I stood on parade at the position of attention, my hand raised in salute as fallen soldiers were being carried into an airplane back to Canada or the United States while “Amazing Grace” played in the background.

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Canadian soldiers armed in AfghanistanPhoto: Courtesy of Sgt. Caitlin Yacucha

Remembering the soldiers who fought and died in the world wars, other conflicts and during peacekeeping operations is very important. They helped define what Canada is today and that’s something that we can all be proud of. We can learn a lot from the veterans of these tragedies. Who we must not forget is the new generation of veterans of Afghanistan. Their stories are just as important in the fabric of our nation’s identity and it is our duty as Canadians to remember them and learn from them. There are stories that I will have in my mind for the rest of my life. I am proud to be a Canadian soldier and will continue to carry the torch passed on by those who have fallen before me. For I am a veteran and I will never forget.

Caitlin has been serving as a signaller in the Canadian Armed Forces for the last ten years. In 2009-2010, she deployed to Afghanistan while concurrently pursuing her post-secondary education. Currently assigned to 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in her home province of Manitoba, she spends what little free time she has napping with her English bulldog, restoring her heritage home and operating her small soap business.

Originally Published in Our Canada