Matthew – 11 Year Old in Canada
I’m in grade 5 and my father is a sergeant. Canada has always been one of the world’s main peacekeeping countries and we’ve helped out Israel, Croatia, Bosnia, Egypt... lots of places. We’ve even helped to stop wars before they started. No one wants another World War One or Two again.
The Taliban is causing a lot of trouble in Afghanistan and we’re trying to stop them, through being there with our tanks and through aggressive negotiations.
Dad had a rough time in Afghanistan. He was right in all the heavy fighting. We knew he could get hurt or killed. Mom in particular was really stressed. She kept hearing on the news and from her friends about all the fighting, and that made her jumpy and upset. Me too. Dad was close to dying a few times. We knew he was in trouble and Mom and I didn’t handle it very well at times.
She was stressed so she’d yell a lot and I was stressed and I’d yell back. The whole thing was really a mess. We were both worried about Dad and there was nothing we could do about that. We couldn’t go over there and make him come home with us. We were scared and frustrated and angry and we yelled at each other because we didn’t know what else we could do.
In one really bad attack at a school, Dad got shrapnel in his shoulder, really close to a vein. He could have died from blood loss. Two of his commanding officers died in Afghanistan. Lots of other soldiers died there too. Lots from Petewawa (our town).
Dad seems a lot quieter now than he used to be. I kind of missed him while he was gone, and I kind of didn’t, because he would yell at me a lot when he was around and I got tired of that. But he’s been quieter since he got home. I think he saw real things wrong in Afghanistan, so the things that I do don’t seem like such a big deal any more.
I don’t think I’ll join the military. I just don’t want to be part of a war. I would stand up for my country, but I hope there’s a way of doing that without being part of the military. My ambition is to become a teacher.
My advice is to try not to focus on the bad things. Keep your mind on the good things. You’ll get through it easier.
NOTE: This letter is based on an interview Deborah Ellis had with Matthew for the book Off to War.