By Jay Tarzwell and Illustrated by Natia Gogiashvilli

“Is your letter for Santa finished Maggie?” Daddy asked, knowing she’d worked hard on it.

“Yes! Do you want to hear it?” Maggie was happy her letter was finally done. It was a lot of work to make her letters neat.

“Of course we do, sweetie!”


THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT: A SOLDIER’S STORY

Frank Reid: Facing off with Red Army Faction, West Germany, Fall 1977

Wanted Poster for the Red Army Faction members, with a reward offered. (Poster: Author)

Our main exercise was over for another year. The battalion was stumbling around like a bunch of zombies. All we wanted now was to flop down somewhere, anywhere, and wait for the trains to take us back to our base. Our Sergeant came up and told us. “You two are going to take a vehicle back to the staging area.”

The staging area was where the vehicles waited to be loaded on trains for their journey back home. We were to drive an APC four kilometres down the road and deliver it to the mechanics to work on before loaded…


Facebook’s AI has two content standards

Screen capture from my Facebook page on Saturday, 29 November 2020 (photo: Author).

Facebook did not allow this meme to reply to a COVID denier comment; however, it allowed me to share the same meme seven hours before, without a concern.


Liam’s Year

Healing through the written word

(Image: Author)

This story was inspired by my then five-year-old daughter Margaret, while we were writing her letter to Santa. The year was 2003 and three years after the death of our son, Liam. By then we’d had a second son, Thomas, and for the most part things were getting back to normal, or as close to it as we’d come.

Margaret had asked Santa for an elf, and when I asked why, she said if she had an elf, he could make her toys. I laughed and the idea stuck with me. …


THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT: A SOLDIER’S STORY

Clint Slusar: Basic Recce Course, West Germany, Spring 1989

On patrol in West Germany. (Photo: Clint Slusar)

I was on a course in Germany that definitely tested me. It revolved around a three-man team that could be placed almost anywhere and perform tasks from observation to sniping and scouting. Everyone had to show that they were tough enough and smart enough to be part of this team.

The classroom part of it lasted two weeks. It was mostly PT, AFV recognition, tactics, fieldcraft and equipment. It was a piece of piss, no problem.

The field part of it consisted of 4 weeks of kicking our asses. It started with a non-tactical test of map and compass skills…


Liam’s Year

I’m a parent of a child who died, and I dread these questions.

Our daughter Margaret at her brother’s grave, helping to decorate it for Halloween shortly after his headstone was laid October 2000. The epitaph was chosen by his mother — Step softly a dream lies buried here. The photo was scratched when the frame broke at some point. (Photo: Author)

Liam died five days short of his first birthday after an exhausting year. A year that almost destroyed us. In the weeks and months that followed, anyone who knew us well knew what happened, so didn’t usually ask about him.

Our acquaintances knew less, and so were curious. We’d tell them his story if they asked. We never went out of our way to tell it or draw attention to ourselves because of him.

After a year or so, I stopped including his name in family letters and emails. …


Liam’s Year

And how his final act eased our heavy hearts over the last mile.

A baby in his mother’s arms is pictured. A relief cast of the baby’s hand and a silver engraved box sit in front.
A baby in his mother’s arms is pictured. A relief cast of the baby’s hand and a silver engraved box sit in front.
Liam in his mother’s arms at eight months. The cast of his hand was made by his nurse Kelly, the day before he died. The silver box contains a locket of his hair. (Photo: Author)

It’s been twenty years since but not a day goes by without him in our thoughts.

Liam was transferred to a private room on the Isolation Ward of Toronto’s Sick Kids’ Hospital, from the Intensive Care Ward late in the evening of August 3rd, 2000.

It Was Over

We walked through the corridors with him toward a private room. This was his green mile.

It was over.

The Sunday before, sensing no improvement, we gave him five days to recover before withdrawing life support.

He didn’t.

Our 360-day old boy had nothing left to give and we only had one thing left to…


And it wasn’t to give the neighbours something to talk about.

A photo of a suburban yard. The grass dead, while a flower bearing ground cover,  yellow woodsorrel, grows in its place.
A photo of a suburban yard. The grass dead, while a flower bearing ground cover,  yellow woodsorrel, grows in its place.
By late spring, the yellow woodsorrel was the first to come alive and spread, a low ground cover, the density of the flowers was appealing to the eye, while the grass struggled to survive without intervention. (Photo: author)

I didn’t cut my lawn this summer, but instead grew a bumblebee garden.

My yard was a lush green meadow of mixed wildflowers by the end of the summer, all thriving in their natural environment. Untouched and unwatered, it was wild, though not too badly overgrown, and only a little chaotic

The seven main varieties of flowering weeds provided a bee oasis in the middle of a suburban desert. A day didn’t go by where there were no furry visitors floating around the yard.

The Weeds

Common yellow woodsorrel flourished in…


THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT: A SOLDIER’S STORY

How to keep your stories alive.

Add your Soldier’s Story to the collection. (Photo: Author)

What stops people from sharing their stories isn’t that they don’t have any, but that they can’t/won’t/don’t write them down. Everyone has a story in then that is worth telling. Don’t let the physical act of writing it down get in the way of telling your stories.

If you aren’t sure where to start, let me know and I’ll work with you. What you need to know is your story is worth telling because soldiers are the living history of the Regiment.

Official history’s only tell part of the story. Sure, you’ll know the battalion went to Puerto Rico in…

Jay Tarzwell

Amateur historian, researcher, and Editor of Soldier’s Stories.

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