We offer our condolences to the family and friends of Cpl. Anthony Boneca for the great sacrifice he has made in his service to Canada while serving in Afghanistan. His death is a tragedy and he will be sorely missed by all those who knew this proud young man. His section mates and fellow comrades, other serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces and indeed former members and veterans of all of Canada's conflicts will remember this brave young man. Cpl. Boneca will forever be etched in the collective memory of our nation as a young lad who became a man wearing the uniform of our country and as a man who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving his country.
We also note with considerable sadness the unseemly media frenzy which is growing over the alleged disillusionment of Cpl. Boneca regarding some aspects of the mission in Afghanistan. There has yet to be any formal substantiation or confirmation from Cpl. Boneca's fellow soldiers about what Cpl. Boneca may have thought or said about the mission in Afghanistan.
We are of the view that speculation at this point in time by those members of the media, politicians and others who are critical of the mission in Afghanistan, is grossly inappropriate and a complete indignity to the respect that is due by us all to a soldier who has paid the highest price. It is common knowledge that while deployed into an operational theatre, communications between soldiers and home are often limited, and discussions are often confined to very general subject matter therefore it will be some time before there is any unbiased confirmation of Cpl. Boneca's view on the mission. It is worth noting that whatever Cpl. Boneca's views may have been, he never deviated from his sense of duty to the mission or loyalty to his comrades. No country is entitled to ask for more dedication to the cause from a twenty-one-year-old with 2 tours than what Cpl. Boneca offered. We are of the view that Canadians ought to take a long, critical look at the words of those who might be trying to colour the death of this brave man with their own perceptions of the mission in Afghanistan.
To be very clear, despite impressions portrayed by the media to the contrary, it would be very difficult to accept that a Canadian Reserve soldier such Cpl. Boneca was forced or tricked or otherwise pressured in to volunteering for any overseas assignment, particularly into a theatre of operations such as Afghanistan. As a Reservist, in order to be deployed to Afghanistan, Cpl. Boneca would have (i) requested the assignment, (ii) engaged in a competition for a position with his peers, (iii) undertaken fairly intensive "war orientated" training, and (iv) been made fully aware of the situation in Afghanistan including all of the possible risks and (v) he would have been provided an opportunity to decline before deploying.
Cpl. Boneca volunteered for a difficult, multi-faceted mission. Serving members of the Canadian Forces are well aware that the expectations in training and the reality on the ground never match, despite the best efforts to prepare beforehand. As well, the sheer physical and mental stress of the mission have a tendency to send most ordinary people into occasional "low" periods, where questioning what you are doing is indeed a common occurrence. It is the responsibility of every member of the armed forces, Regular or Reserve, to understand what they have signed up for and why.
We find it unacceptable that some would suggest that Cpl. Boneca did not understand what he had volunteered to do when there is every indication that he knew exactly what he was doing by volunteering. In the months leading up to the deployment to southern Afghanistan it was common knowledge within the military that the mission would be faced with many challenges and that there would be many occasions of violent encounters with the Taliban and the remnants of Al Queda. It is also common knowledge there would be deaths and casualties amongst Canadian troops, and at the time Cpl. Boneca was volunteering for this particular tour, both the Chief of Defence Staff and former Defence Minister Bill Graham were going to great lengths to prepare Canadians for casualties. Moreover, as an infantry soldier Cpl. Boneca surely understood the hardships inherent with this most demanding of trades.
The ugly media frenzy feeding off what Cpl. Boneca may have expressed privately only confirms that certain elements within the Canadian media really is in a sickening "death watch" mode and that they will seek to capitalize on any negative perception of the Afghanistan mission, whether or not any shortcoming is true. It seems any rumour will do.
When Reservists were killed overseas in the former Yugoslavia or other related peacekeeping missions, did the media quickly approach the families and dutifully report concerns raised by the families? The answer is a resounding "no." The silence surrounding the death and injury of serving members, both Regular and Reserve in past missions strongly suggests an accelerating bias in the media which in turn is unjustifiably fuelling opposition to Canada's role in Afghanistan. Certainly if the media, opposition politicians and the general public had a better understanding of what we were doing and why, then soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for us all would be treated with the dignity and respect which is their due.