Eleven years ago an unthinkable atrocity occurred on North American soil as two-passenger jetliners crashed into the twin towers at the World Trade Center, changing the way people perceived the world in which they lived.
And although the decision to intervene in Afghanistan was met with a maelstrom of controversy, Reverend Sandy Scott of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church believes the decision made was for the right reasons, as part of a just cause.
“When you are on the ground in a place like Kandahar and you meet people, you talk to them, you learn how violent and narrow minded the Taliban view of the world is,” said Scott. “We don’t have a right to necessarily export our culture or impose our culture but we certainly have an obligation to stand up for the poorest of the poor when they are being bullied and battered and beaten by groups like the Taliban.”
For Scott, who was deployed for a six-month tour of duty in Kandahar, the progress made, especially on the ground in Afghanistan, has made profound difference.
“We have helped in providing safety so that local folks can govern. We’ve helped expand the water system throughout the Arghandab Valley so that farmers can grow produce and the security that we have provided has opened up markets,” he said.
Vital for a country to prosper on its own accord, soldiers have helped open many schools, while concurrently supporting women’s rights to education. In doing so, the quality of life of innumerable locals in Kandahar and across the tumultuous region has improved.
Grief-stricken soldiers relied upon Scott’s calming voice in times of distress. Scott’s six-month deployment – from September 2009 until April 2010 – unavoidably, dealt with moments of austere tragedy.
In early March of 2010, Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick was providing protection for the platoon’s dog handler when an explosion critically wounded the soldier. He fought ferociously for his life and miraculously survived the flight to Germany, where he was admitted into hospital. With his parents by his side he made it back to Canada, but succumbed to his injuries hours later.
“It was devastating for us,” said Scott.
Cpl. Fitzpatrick was only 21 years of age. But he did not die in vain, as he served his country in an unparalleled selfless way.
Contrasting the horrific events that Fitzpatrick and his platoon endured on that fateful day on Mar. 4, 2010, Scott recalls a story full of hope. A 12-year-old Afghan boy severely burned his chest while attempting to light the family stove. To make ends meet his father – a single parent – was working, unable to supervise. Scott said the young man lay in his mud hut without medical attention. So as his wound healed, it became infected and his chin fused to his chest.
“When Darren died on the 21st (Mar. 21, 2010) I wanted to at least do something really concrete, make a difference in one guy’s life,” said Scott.
And what a difference Scott, along with St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and numerous other donors made. They raised $2,500, which in Afghanistan, is enough to live on for “long time.”
Three weeks ago, Scott received an e-mail from the boy’s Afghan-American cultural advisor. Pictures of the young boy depicted an incredible transformation. With the help of American doctors, the boy made a full recovery and learned English along the way.
“He looks fantastic,” said Scott. “It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle. This young guy who was going to probably not have a very good life in rural Afghanistan is now heading back to be with his father.
“I’ve seen the good work we can do.”
None of this would have been possible without making the controversial decision a decade ago to intervene in the affairs of Afghanis.
Monumental sacrifices have been made by Canadian troops, and troops within NATO and the United Nations to rid the world of radicalism, and Scott remembers being “on a battlefield” offering comfort to those in dire need.
“Peoples lives are at stake,” said Scott. “Just being present, doing a ministry of presence in a violent situation has a profound impact.
“I’m present here every day but it doesn’t quite mean as much because the stakes aren’t quite as high. When there are lives on the line the words of comfort and hope, you know the promises are heard in a different way.”
Extensive strides, Scott said, have been made on the ground in Afghanistan since an unprecedented act of war was proclaimed in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, in which 2,976 innocent civilians lives were lost.
Our troops put their lives at risk on a daily basis with valor and heroism and, in doing so, have laid the groundwork for a world devoid of radicalism and “myopic grievances” the Taliban is afflicted with.