Friday, April 24, 2009

God Bless Major Michelle Mendes April 23rd, 2009

First, I must TRULY apologize for the missing post for Major Michelle Mendes. It was highly unintentional. It was created, but was in draft mode. I wish to thank my readers for pointing this out to me. Again, my apologies especially to the friends and family of Major Mendes.

With sadness we learn today of the passing of our fallen soldier Major Michelle Mendes. Our hearts and prayers are with her family, friends and comrades as they travel a difficult journey ahead. Michelle will always be remembered.

Major Michelle Mendes
April 23th, 2009: Maj. Michelle Mendes, 30, with Canada's Task Force Kandahar headquarters, based in Ottawa, died today from a non-battle injury.

Comrades Say Goodbye as the Journey Home Begins

Coalition troops from Canada and around the world gathered April 24, 2009 on the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield to bid a final farewell to Maj. Mendes.

We Honour Our Soldier- her journey home
The casket containing the remains of Maj. Michelle Mendes is carried from the aircraft to a waiting hearse on the tarmac during the repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton on April 26, 2009 where many Canadians gather to honour Maj. Mendes and pay respect and show support to her family at CFB Trenton and along the Highway of Heroes.

Our Last Goodbyes

The casket of Major Michelle Mendes is carried out of Sydenham Street United Church in Kingston, ON as her husband follows closely on May 1, 2009.


If you would like to leave a note of condolence to the family and friends of Maj. Mendes, please post it in the comment section and I will transfer it below. Sincerely, Military Mom

While in Ukraine on a State Visit, my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I learned of the tragic death of Major Michelle Mendes, based in Ottawa, Ontario, yesterday in Afghanistan.
Every day, our soldiers serving there are put to the test, both physically and psychologically. The extraordinary dedication and immeasurable contribution are immeasurable. We are grateful to the women and men of our Canadian Forces who give so much of themselves.
Canadians everywhere join us in extending our sincerest condolences and sympathies to the family, friends and comrades in arms of Major Mendes. Though we may be an ocean apart, know that our thoughts are with you.
Michaëlle Jean
"I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Major Michelle Mendes, who died yesterday in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
The Canadian Forces continue to make an immense difference in the lives of Afghans while protecting and promoting both Canadian and international security. Despite our grief, we will continue our important mission to bring peace and stability to the people of Afghanistan.
Major Mendes, who was based on Ottawa, was serving in her second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2001. Her hard work and dedication will not be forgotten.”
Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of National Defence

Letter from Michelle's Family (as appeared in Globe and Mail)
The Globe’s Christie Blatchford and Jessica Leeder couriered a written request to members of Major Michelle Mendes’s family earlier this month asking for an interview. They refused the interview, but penned a detailed response. What follows, but for an introductory paragraph, is their letter.
June 17, 2009
The media coverage following Mic’s death provided some glimpses into her career, her character and her many accomplishments but did not do justice in describing the wife, daughter an sister we loved and the life she packed into the years she was able to spend with us. Here is the rest of the story of the person we knew so well and the loss we mourn every day.
Mic and her older sister Mel grew up in Grafton Ontario with a childhood typical of smaller communities. She was in Brownies and Guides, went to camp through church and started to develop her leadership skills working as a camp counselor. She excelled in school and was consistently on the honour roll. An avid reader from an early age, she typically had a book in every room of the house and would read them all concurrently. Always athletic, she was involved in figure skating for many years, played rugby and baseball as well as spearheading a concerted drive to form her high school’s first girl’s wrestling team. An avid swimmer, she qualified as a lifeguard and was consistently in the family pool. She even combined her two passions for reading and fitness by figuring out how to read a book while swimming laps.
Even as a child, Mic was a very social person who balanced a few very strong friendships while maintaining a wide circle of friends across the community and, eventually, around the globe. Certainly in her home town, Mic knew everybody and everybody knew Mic. She always enjoyed children; she worked in a daycare and taught Sunday School during her high school years. As she grew, she took an interest in world events and the plight of others leading to her sense of service and a desire to assist those in need. Her interests led to her being accepted under a Rotary International programme where she spent one year in Brazil on a high school youth exchange. In addition to returning speaking Portuguese fluently, this experience highlighted her interest to find a career where she could make a difference in the world which ultimately led to her joining the military. Based on the impact she made while in Brazil, and with the Rotarians who sponsored her, Mic was subsequently selected to represent those who had done exchanges by giving an address to over 2500 Rotarians in California. Years later, Mic maintained her connection to Rotary through friends who were still in involved in youth exchange and other initiatives such as polio eradication, and planned to join Rotary once she returned to Kingston.
Mic thrived at RMC with its emphasis on broad, balanced development in academics, athletics, leadership and languages. She thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual challenges of her programme and many of her professors have told us of their memories of an enthusiastic student who was always seeking to expand her knowledge beyond what the course covered. Like most university students, Mic had her strengths and her weaknesses. She excelled in the Arts. She loved ideas more that formulas, mathematics was not her strong suit and she struggled with first year calculus. While this likely led to her subsequent difficulties with the advanced phase of Artillery training, Mic passed calculus with her trademark perseverance and the help of some classmates leading to her constant desire to assist her colleagues when she could help out and her willingness to reach out to others when she needed assistance.
As she had growing up, Mic made a large number of friends at RMC. We clearly recall the first time she asked if she could bring a few friends to visit our apple farm one weekend. Expecting a car load of 3 or 4, we were amazed when a caravan of dozens showed up for the weekend. This was the first of many times that we had the chance to meet her many friends and enjoying watching each develop into confident, successful individuals.
As her friends have said and Vic observed, Mic was a true team player and natural leader on the field. As with all facets of her life, she paid attention to her teammates, was always encouraging others and consistently downplayed her own skills and successes. These led to her selection as captain of her soccer team. She effectively combined a strong competitive spirit with good sportsmanship, win or lose. Of course, sports and particularly soccer was what brought Mic and Vic together leading to a strong partnership and wonderful marriage.
Building on the characteristics evident as a child, Mic sought out opportunities to take on greater responsibilities and fulfill leadership roles. She talked to us about her role models and the important lessons she learned about what the military was, what was expected of officers and the demands of a military career. She had the privilege of meeting Gen Romeo Dallaire and was inspired by his call for better educated officers with the desire to serve Canada in valuable missions overseas. These served to strengthen Mic’s commitment to serving in uniform. It was during her time at RMC that we came to realize how important the CF was to Mic and that she was determine to serve for a full career.
While Mic blossomed at RMC expanding her understanding of the world and of herself, the aspects that stood out the most where those that had described Mic from childhood. She strove to excel and could be quite dogged in her determination to complete tasks that needed to be done. She certainly set high standards for herself and epitomized the ideal that one’s reach should exceed one’s grasp but she was equally aware of her limitations. Having had the privilege of staying in touch with so many of Mic’s classmates over the years, we have come to recognize the commitment, perseverance and sense of service that characterizes those who have made the military their career.
Mic emerged from RMC confident, committed and dynamic; characteristics that enabled her to enjoy subsequent success and to weather the occasional set backs that she encountered as all of us do in life. Her excellence in all aspects of the RMC programme led to her selection as one of the few Cadets who are approved each year to apply to immediately pursue post-graduate training. Based on her outstanding academic achievements, she earned acceptance to Carleton University’s prestigious Norman Patterson School of International Affairs. Again, Mic thrived on the intellectual stimulation. She pursued courses that interested her; which would, in fact, subsequently serve her well as an Intelligence Officer and, we believe, were part of why Mic excelled in the branch. She clearly did well in her studies as some of her professors had encouraged her to continue to do a PhD. As with her time at RMC, she also made some great friendships and we were fortunate to have met several of her NPSIA friends over the years.
We are extremely proud of Mic’s successes in her career. Although it took a couple of years, her selection to be an Intelligence Officer was an obvious great fit for Mic as it allowed her to apply her keen intellect and love of learning, her desire to make a difference in the world and her phenomenal social and leadership skills. Not only did she excel on courses, she drew on her graduate education, her colleague’s expertise and her own personal reading to teach at the Intelligence School and, most recently, submit an academic article on the need to better incorporate socio-cultural anthropology into CF thinking and Intelligence analyses. Mic made many contributions to the Branch including working on organizing the 25th anniversary dinner and dance in fall 2007. As part of her extensive preparation for her deployment to Afghanistan she had made contact with a Canadian supported Afghan Women’s Network.
Despite her busy military career and time away from her home in Kingston, Mic was always active with family and community. For several years, she helped organize the Christmas dinner served at the United church downtown. She participated in numerous fund raisers including running ½ marathons for cancer with her Mom. She always stayed in peak condition finding time to work out every day as well as belonging to a Kingston running club (for fun). Constantly thinking of others, she kept in close contact with colleagues and friends who deployed. As some related to us, she managed to get ‘care packages’ to some friends in Afghanistan before their own families did.
As reflected in her choice of a career in uniform and her year in Brazil, Mic loved to travel. She and Vic had wonderful experiences seeing the world through each other’s eyes starting with their shoe string budget trip to Venezuela and extending through subsequent travels to Jamaica, Mexico and especially Portugal to twice celebrate Christmas with extended family.
What consistently amazed us was the number of lives she touched and all of those who felt a close personal connection with Mic. She was so often the key to bringing friends from all realms together. She always made sure the different communities she was involved in had the opportunity to crossover and learn from one another while gaining incredible friendships at the same time. She made everyone feel important, and made sure that their familial bond or friendship was celebrated just as she celebrated important milestones in her life. Together with her family and friends, who were truly extended family to her, she celebrated life, her marriage, holidays, birthdays, and her well deserved promotions. And every one of those celebrations was done with Mic’s flair for the creative, specially decorated cakes, water balloons for the kids, and that oh so memorable handmade card or treat for that certain someone; everyone was made to feel special. For the party to celebrate her promotion to Major and her deployment, Mic invited 135 people and 135 showed up. She took great joy on that occasion sharing stories with each and every one of them, telling them where she was going to work and offering many advance congratulations for events that they would celebrate while she was away. Never one to lose contact and an avid user of Facebook, Mic made sure her family and friends would be able to stay in touch while she was away by prepping pre-addressed envelopes destined for her in Afghanistan. She did this, while at the same time making sure that her friends back home, or returning home, knew just how special they were by spending extra time with them before she left, and leaving others special treats they knew were crafted by her hand and assembled for them.
Mic committed to her tour in Afghanistan the way she lived her entire life: enthusiastic, confident and determined. Her deployment combined two of her greatest loves: service to Canada and extending a helping hand to those in need. We hope this letter gives you a more complete understanding of the wonderful person we loved and who we fully supported in her desire to make the world just a little bit better. Many have commented to us on Mic’s intellect, her warmth, her compassion for others and her constant desire to assist those in need. We are comforted by knowing how many lives she touched, the contributions she made to the CF and the legacy she has left of service to humanity. Our fondest wish would be that her story may inspire others to seek to better understand our complex world and pursue options to represent Canada on the international stage making a difference in the lives of others.
In your letter to us, you have stated you wanted to explore what you believe are the tough questions that may have been raised. We don’t see them as such. Mic was fully trained and fully prepared for her deployment. We are very proud of her many accomplishments, her commitment to mastering her profession and the well deserved accolades she received for her leadership, expertise and judgment. Mic certainly undertook demanding duties in the course of her career but so have many of her friends in uniform whom we know very well. We fully understood Mic’s passion for her career and her drive to serve her nation to the best of her ability. Our observation is that the military is filled with individuals who thrive on challenges and are committed to rise to the occasion. Other stories in your paper and in Ms Blatchford’s book have illustrated this point very well.
We are proud of the fact that the CF saw Mic as fully qualified to assume responsibilities as a Major in the Intelligence Branch and we remain convinced that she was more than capable of discharging her duties and making a valuable contribution to the difficult mission that the Canadian people have given the CF. We are quite aware of the close personal contact Mic had with her superiors and remain confident that the CF exercised all of its responsibilities in selecting and preparing Mic for her deployment. We are quite aware of previous events you have alluded to including her first deployment and her first attempt at AOC. We remain concerned that those who had only tangential involvement with Mic have chosen to speculate about issues of which they have incomplete knowledge. We believe that they and/or you have taken isolated snippets of information out of context to opine that some ignored issues and placed her career and the mission in Afghanistan ahead of her well being. Our conclusion reading your letter is that you are seeking a rational explanation for an irrational act and have decided to portray a vulnerable person pushed into crisis. We strongly encourage you to do more research to understand the more accepted explanations for these events and to avoid perpetuating unfounded views. This letter is provided in the hope that you will opt to provide a factual retelling of the amazing joy, hope and inspiration cast by how Mic lived rather than speculation on the manner in which her flame went out. We do not believe your readers would be well served by conjecture that lacks a factual basis and we know that Mic deserves better than that.
Victor Mendes; Ron, Dianne and Melissa Knight

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God Bless Trooper Karine Blais -Monday, April 13th, 2009

Trooper Karine Blais

Our hearts open and tears well up as we hear the news of a fallen soldier. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends - both here and those who served alongside her in Afghanistan and through training at home. God bless you Trooper Blais. You will always be remembered.

Trooper Karine Blais was killed on April 13, 2009, when the vehicle she was travelling in hit an improvised explosive device in Shah Wali Kowt, north of Kandahar City. Her deployment is still fresh in their minds and tears still dampen on the faces of her family and friends as she left Canada only two weeks ago.
Trooper Karine Blais, 21, died and four other soldiers were wounded late Monday afternoon when their armoured personnel carrier rolled over a roadside bomb in the Shah Wali Khot district, north of Kandahar.
The soldiers wounded in Monday's blast were airlifted by helicopter to a military hospital at the Kandahar airfield despite a fierce sand storm that hit the area. Two of the soldiers were being treated by medical personnel and two were released. The conditions of the two still being treated were not known.
Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said Blais had arrived in Afghanistan just two weeks ago. He praised the young woman's enthusiasm for the mission she was about to undertake.
"She was an energetic soldier who gave 100 per cent to every challenge she faced using a unique sense of humour, based on her honesty," Vance said. "Frank and direct, she demonstrated the qualities of a future leader who was respected by all members of her squadron."
Trooper Blais was a member of 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada based at Camp Valcartier, and was serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group.

If you wish to post a condolence in Trooper Blais' memory, please post it in the comment section and I will transfer it below. Thank you.

It is always so sad to see the young die for the mistakes of the old. It especially tears the heart out when they look as young and innocent as Trooper Blais.My thoughts for her family and friends, she is not forgotten. ~ SusanE
I thank your daughter for fighting for my freedom. I am truly blessed that there are men and women who are will to put there life on the line to keep me free. To the Blais Family,I thank you for raising a daughter with such compassion in her heart to fight for my freedom. I am sorry that she is now gone but just remember the great times you had with her . ~Thank you Courtney Shakotko Courtney Shakotko

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Thoughts - 2009

My thoughts turn to all our soldiers throughout our world and their families at home during this Easter Season. An Easter Rose from me.
When the winds blow
and sand touches your skin.
I ask God to watch
over the desert that you're in.
I pray to watch over you,
in this country far away
Easter Sunday too,
Roses for our soldiers I pray,
Let all the brave receive an Easter rose,
For faith to win this war
and help set the people free
As roses come through the door.
He will be with you always,
As we pray for you right here
All the days and all the nights
As we wipe away a tear.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Newcastle Woman In Support of Our Troops

Marg Maskell, seen with her patriotic banner, gets emotional in her Newcastle home as she recalls meeting the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Photo Credit: YVONNE BERG

The Star The message from Kandahar moves Margaret Maskell to tears. "It is a great feeling to have the community back us while we are deployed," reads the email from Master Cpl. Nicholas Field. Field, a 27-year-old trooper from Oshawa, took one with him when he left for Afghanistan last August. The support it represents is a motivating force that makes his posting "a bit more bearable," he says. Field is due to come home in a month.

"It truly makes me feel proud to serve Canada and its people. There is no way to truly show my gratitude to the communities that support us."
Maskell's bold red and yellow banners appear to be doing the job.
The unique sign she helped create to rally support for Canada's troops is sprouting up on posts, walls and buildings across the province. The retired Newcastle resident's dream is to have a banner in every city and town across the country.
"I want to show the world that Canadians are united in support of our troops," she says.
The deaths of six soldiers from a roadside bomb on April 8, 2007 – Easter Sunday – planted the seeds for the banner project. The tragedy hit close to home for Maskell, 62, whose nephew, Cpl. David Allison of New Brunswick, was in the same battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. He had started his tour of duty just weeks before the lethal blast.
Later, she met some of the grieving families during a visit to Allison's parents near Fredericton.
"What can I do to make things better?" she asked.
One father stepped forward: "You can wear red on Fridays to show your support. And tie a yellow ribbon for everyone to see."
So Maskell wore red every Friday and tied yellow ribbons in front of her home.
Then came the loss of a local hero, Trooper Darryl Caswell, from neighbouring Bowmanville, killed the following June. The crowds assembling at overpasses grew larger with each hearse bearing a fallen soldier along Highway 401. Maskell's banners have a special meaning for Christine Caswell, Darryl's stepmother, who has become a friend."When I see them in places I don't expect, it puts a smile on my face and lets me know people are thinking about the troops."
"I just knew that I had to do something else," says Maskell. "I couldn't sleep, thinking about our men and women giving their lives for us."
She contacted Hampton resident Scott Taylor, who has a sign-making business called The Artshack. Together they designed a banner incorporating a red maple leaf inside a yellow ribbon. Then Maskell took it on the road on behalf of Canada's dead, injured and veteran soldiers.
Encouraged by Lieut.-Gov. David Onley, she has succeeded in getting banners hung at Queen's Park and in communities throughout Ontario and beyond. She'd like to see one on Grenville St., near the Toronto morgue where the repatriation processions end.
In the Bowmanville supermarket where Maskell worked until retiring last year, soldiers visiting the store last year were touched by the sight of the colourful banner near the checkout, says manager David Skitch.
"They just loved it and appreciated the support from the community," he says.

The heavy vinyl banner is 107 centimetres high but can be custom-made in any size. The price starts at $65, which Scott Taylor says covers materials and labour. He can be contacted for orders at

A BIG HUA for Scott Taylor and Marg Maskell!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's Tuesday!

It's another Tuesday and it has now become a tradition.. a ritual if you may. Every Tuesday, for the past few weeks, I have meet with my Dad.
First, we get together, rubbing our hands together trying to figure out what we should make for dinner. Sometimes we experiment with new creations (sometimes we end up eating "flops" ) We'll sit together over dinner and discuss everything from Mom to politics to inventions to our week's events. But everytime, we elude to the topic of my son - his "Grandchild" - of which he is so proud of. He worries about him constantly and I try to dash his worries away, although deep inside me the worries never go away.
After our dinner, he'll settle down and watch the hockey game while I try to complete paperwork or sew or bake ahead for the week for him. The excitement increases as 10 pm approaches. Combat School is on! We watch at the edge of our seats.. looking for a glimpse... a glimpse of our son- our grandson or of familiar faces. On commercials we discuss what we've watched. It brings us closer not only to each other, but to our soldiers as well.
Combat School
Discovery Channel
10:00 pm EST (1 hour)

Monday, April 06, 2009

I'm Here

As the long tails of the yellow ribbon unfurls in the wind, my thoughts always turn to my son. My husband places a sweater on my shoulders. The phone is not far from my hand. We wait.

With everything that has been happening in my personal life, I feel as though time has stopped and I'm having a difficult time getting my mind around some things. In many ways, this tour is different.

I try to help others as I always do, but I notice that it may be my turn to lean on someone. (Thank you C.)

A few weeks later and I have now decided that I'm not going to let things get me down. Having sent care packages (oh I need to tell you about them - perhaps at a later entry), I have now decided to keep my mind busy by starting work on a scrapbook of my son's deployment. (a surprise for him..shhh .. don't tell him) I had taken approximately 200 photos (give or take a hundred.. and if you know me.. it's probably give a hundred) This project could be bigger than I expected. I then asked a family whose son deployed on the same day if they could share their photos with me that they had taken. What an amazing family. I owe you debt of gratitude M. family! Thank you .. thank you! A BIG hug!

Tonight I arranged to have them developed and cried when I saw the picture they had taken of the plane on ascent and the arms of the families waving in the foreground. It quickly brought me back to that day months ago (feeling like years). So now I have a project to work on. Keep my mind busy.

There are MANY upcoming events that I will try to post tonight. Lots of news happening overseas I need to bring you up on. And good news on the homefront in Petawawa.

As well, I'd like to thank everyone for your emails, for your thoughts of inspiration, support and dedication and gratitude to our soldiers.

So hang onto your hats.. I'm back.

Waterloo Region Military Appreciation Day and Task Force Welcome Back

Waterloo Region Military Appreciation Day and Task Force Welcome Back Event

This is a chance to formally recognize and thank a veteran in person as military members within the greater Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and Brantford Region who have just returned from overseas duty with Task Force 3-08 and all other soldiers who have been on overseas duty since 9/11
Everyone Welcome!

Waterloo Region Military Appreciation Day
Saturday, June 13th, 2009
1300-1630 (1 pm to 4:30 pm)
Dickson Park,
9 James Street,
Cambridge, ON
  • BBQ and Displays

  • Military Equipment (LAV, Leopard tank, Bison Ambulance, etc.)

  • CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation) Display

  • Camoflauge and obstacle course for the children

  • CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) Signature projects

  • Recruiting Displays

  • MFRC Displays - Including Family Support Groups from: Waterloo Region (Families of Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan), Guelph, Cambridge and Brantford - extending their hand to you.

  • Red Friday Display

  • Hero to Hero First Responder Display
  • Two Minutes of Silence for all war dead including Afghanistan

  • Presentation of Certificates to TF 3-08 soldiers by local mayors

  • Acknowledgement of those who have suffered physical injuries

  • Return of Regional flags from Afghanistan


Celebrate Me Home - RHFC Gala Event

A Hero's Welcome
On April 24th, 2009 we will be celebrating the safe return of the largest number of veterans to come home to Waterloo Region at one time in more than half a century. You can be part of this joyful event that will feature a dinner, dance and entertainment. Thank a veteran returning from Afghanistan in person. It's time to show your appreciation for their sacrifices.

Open to the Public. Limited Seating. Black Tie Optional.
Join the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada as well as special dignitaries for an entertaining evening as we give thanks for our soldiers' safe return.

When: Friday, April 24, 2009 Cocktails at 6:00 p.m. Dinner at 7:00 p.m. Dance at 9:00 p.m
Where: Bingemans Ballroom, 425 Bingeman Centre Drive, Kitchener, Ontario
Tickets $150.00

For more information click here

LMFRC - Cambridge Outreach's Grand Opening!

Outreach Services Cambridge
Grand Opening Ceremony
Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
The Cambridge Armoury (Col. McIntosh, DSO,ED Armoury)
1 Valour Place, Rm 105
(Ainslie St S beside the Bus Station)
Cambridge, ON
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Support Our Troops Merchandise BBQ Cake Door Prizes
Displays Cleo the Clown Ballons for the Kids and much more...
Bring the Whole Family!
Come meet with members of support groups from
Waterloo Region (Families of Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan),
Guelph, Cambridge and Brantford
(Military Family Resource Centre)
For further information contact:
Donna Pickering at 519-740-7322 Ext 3319
Click on poster below to enlarge: