canadian_flag Well, it’s been four years of hard slogging on the part of a growing handful of volunteers. Thank you all so very much. You know who you are.

We had to extend the cut off for submissions to 15 May (thanks to a few Ottawa brass) and now find ourselves overwhelmed with content. Wonderful! So we will make the book a little bigger. 304 pages to be specific. A big jump from the 208 pages we thought we might be able to fill!

We have contributions from almost 150 people and the book looks to be the first of its kind. Reading through the draft as we edit I am moved, fascinated, haunted, saddened and amused by the stories and photos folks have chosen to share. “Afghanistan: A Canadian Story” provides a worthwhile and very human insight into the more than 12 years Canadians served in Afghanistan and the maritime approaches to that part of the world.

For those of you who contributed, be proud of your contribution and know that you have a place in a rather fascinating and significant historical legacy unlike any that has come before. For those of you who never quite got around to it, too late.

The book is now with the copy editor and will be launched, in Ottawa, November 2014, probably as a part of Veterans Week. You should be able to order it through Chapters Indigo around the time of the launch or shortly thereafter.

All proceeds will go to the Edmonton MFRC for distribution to Boomers Legacy Foundation, the Military Families Fund and the Soldier On Fund.

Rough Draft finally completed

It is done. Almost four years since we started it. The rough draft of the book, all 307 pages of it, has gone to the volunteer copy editor, Capt Susan Magill, my PAO partner in creative mayhem and machinations. The door is closed on all but those few submissions we have already been apprised of.

Now, how to fit 307 pages in to the cap of 240 pages. Folks who have submitted more than one story, you will be reduced to your best of. Folks who have gone on and on and on and on – and you know who you are – you will be abbreviated. Submission instructions at the web site were pretty clear.

And for those of you who sent me teeny tiny photos without captions, you have no idea how much work you created. All too often, a photo just could not be included. Again, the instructions at the web site were pretty clear. Interesting to note that the most frequent offenders in this last sin were senior (as in brass) peeps. Ludites of the world seem to have gravitated to the CAF/DND.

There will be an e-version in the New Year in which we hope to include everything as well as a gallery of unassigned (no accompanying story) photos. For those of you who never got around to sharing your story, too bad, so sad, too late. Interesting to note that none of the folks I served with bothered to submit a story or a photo. Thanks.

In any event, it will be wonderful to finally enjoy retirement life a little (not really – still a lot to do). And to all who helped get us this far, you have been and no doubt will continue to be wonderful. Demigods and goddesses all.

Uploading New Content – Where’s Yours?

I am up to 2008 in terms of removing material borrowed from Combat Camera and uploading new submissions. As you visit each year you can check out your own submission (that’s if you sent something in) and see where we are short material. Also gives you an opportunity to get a sense of what others are writing. Might inspire those of you who served but have been silent so far to send something in. If you DID send something in and it’s not there (remember I am only up to 2008) feel free to nag me or resend your material. And remember, images have to be high resolution.

Some of you sent in very long pieces and numerous photos. We have a new cap of 240 pages and don’t want to leave anyone out so some of the longer submissions will be edited to a shorter version for the hard copy of the book while the e-version will have the full version. Same goes for photos. The hard cover will have at least one of the photos you’ve sent in while the e-version will have them all (except out of focus, or unidentifiable photos)

Afghan Legacy Album

AfghanistanCanadianStoryThe final cover is decided and formatting of much of the first and last section of the book is complete. Now comes the daunting task of editing, ordering and formatting all the submissions, the real content. A frustrating part of this is a requirement to resize many photos. Fortunately the publisher put me on to a good software program that does this surprisingly well.

The book has full funding thanks to the Power Workers Union and will be published November 2014. If you deployed, Military, RCMP, Corrections, Media, Civilian, it would be a shame to have the book come out and your friends and family ask why it doesn’t have your story. For those of you who are at a loss as to what you should write, have a look at what others have sent in. Content accumulation as of July 2013 can be found at /

Over 100 people have already contributed with the promise of many more. Very few Air Force and no RCMP yet. Discussion is under way to expand the number of pages in the book and there will be an e-version of the book.

Remember submission cut-off is May 1 2014. 200 to 600 words for articles (more for exceptional stories). Identify who you are and when you deployed. Photos have to be at least 300 dpi or 1 megabyte and need to include who took the photo, who’s in it, and when it was taken. Submissions can be emailed to

If you don’t get your story in before May 1st there will be no additional opportunities to sneak a submission in later. That will be it. When the book comes out and friends and family flip to the year or years you deployed, they won’t find you. Everything goes to the publisher by mid-May and before that Capt. Susan Magill has to copy edit the whole thing! And she has at least two day jobs with the CAF. So no exceptions for late submissions.

Tell Me a Story Soldier!

About a year ago we launched this little project called “Afghanistan: A Soldier’s Story”  The objective was to collect the human stories and images of those who served –  military, civilian and media, to compile them in a legacy album to share with Canadians.  Publication is planned for November 2014. We have made progress in many areas.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a special thanks to Don MacKinnon, President of the Power Workers’ Union (PWU), and all the PWU members, for their generous donation.  This is the same organization that was the principal supporter of the documentary series “The Veterans” MacKinnon, by the way, was awarded the CF Meritorious Service Medallion by the CDS for his outstanding support of Canada’s veterans and the serving men and women in the CF.

A big thank you also goes out to Colonel (retired) Andrew Nellestyn. He has been relentless over the summer putting out calls for personal stories to a number of CF associated web sites and organizations. He has also been instrumental in raising project awareness with Canadian leadership in the military, political, corporate, and academic communities.

MGen Vance has accepted our invitation to serve as the CF Project Champion and agreed to write an afterward for the book. The CDS, General Walter Natynczyk  has written an introduction for the book and military historian, Dr. Jack Granatstein, has agreed to write a historical introduction.  In addition the Prime Minister, the Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion have agreed to provide message(s) and/or content.

Since the inception of this project, as far back as the summer of 2010, there have been many who assured us they would share their stories and images. We look forward to receiving these promised submissions but want to remind you that though the deadline is May 2014, it would be nice to see content come in sooner than that.  Otherwise our volunteer editors will be overwhelmed with a flood of your promised content just before publication.

There has also been a good deal of enthusiasm for the project among CF members, coupled with a peculiar reluctance. Many appear to struggle with the idea, suggesting their stories are either not worth sharing, or too colourful or covert to share. I ask you to think again. The stories we seek are not the grand stories. They are the human stories, the moments that stand out like a bright moment, perhaps complete with distinctive sounds and smells, burned in the back of your mind. Perhaps they are not all upbeat, happy or funny stories. Some may be angry, some sad, some terrified. All, however, represent the human face of a Canadian experience that captured the hearts of Canadians for a time and has been defining and even transforming for our military. An experience that, though it continues with nearly 1000 Canadian soldiers still serving in Afghanistan, has already begun to fade from public and political relevance.

Before you shrug and discount this as the norm in Canada, I’d like you to consider the importance of sharing your experiences in a story rather than leaving the responsibility for recordingCanada’s involvement in the Afghan conflict to the journalists and historians.

Storytelling is a traditional and even ancient means of passing on wisdom and culture, not just a chronicling of key events. Historically, it has been how subsequent generations were inspired and informed, not just with skills and knowledge, but with values and ideals, and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves. Today, we rely on formalized education along with movies and television to provide the models that will shape our youth, and our leaders of the future. Far too many of us, as a result, have lost the individual art of storytelling.

Your stories, simple and unimportant though they might seem to you, are very important. When you share your experiences through storytelling, you are contributing to a powerful individual exchange, and an accumulation and consolidation of priceless knowledge beyond what is formalized in manuals and history books. Your shared narrative builds trust and understanding with your communities and with those who will come to serve after you. Your stories will also help to perpetuate a standard of professional excellence that has, more often than not, been the hallmark of those who have served Canada in the profession of arms before you. And consider this. Many you may have come to regard as real heroes in Canada’s history probably saw themselves, at the time, as ordinary folks just doing their job. Sort of like you.

So please, if you have a story, an image, or a video clip from your Afghan experience to share, or if you know someone else with an experience to share, please direct them to or to Your stories and photos are more important than you may realize!

If you are still serving, by the way, and have concerns about submitting, talk to your Chain of Command and/or your Public Affairs Officer. The same media guidelines that apply to any interaction with media hold true in this project. You may speak to what you know from first hand experience as long as you do not violate operational security. If you have complaints, use existing internal processes. This project is looking for your human perspective, your boots on the ground perspective for the Afghan Mission.

Also – Make sure your Chain of Command is aware of your intent to submit and has an opportunity to review your submission. Your Public Affairs Officer can help you if writing is not your strong suit or if you are at all concerned about your submission.

We look forward to your stories. Remember, submission deadline is May 2014 so we can include all who are still deployed or are yet to deploy to Afghanistan.

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May Developments

A lot of progress has been made in recent months. Publication has been moved to November 2014 in order to include the training mission. We have an excellent book intro from the CDS, viewable as a pdf at this site, and the promise of a second intro from Canadian Historian Dr. Jack Granatstein. MGen Vance has offered to write the afterward and apparently has some submissions he would like to make. LCol Ian Hope has agreed to write historical intros for each section, and LCol Mark Gasparotto has agreed to act as project Champion for CME (Canadian Military Engineers). We have also entered into a collaborative relationship with the producers of the documentary series “The Veterans” to include episodes of their 58 episode series (a mini film festival as it were) at presentations across Canada, and will be including a DVD of the episodes relevant to the Afghan Mission in the back of the book. We also have permission to use “Homefront” a CF documentary filmed here in Edmonton and in Afghanistan by Reel Girls Media Inc. in 2007. I am in discussion with the Edmonton MFRC with regards to a media event there in May or June to announce the new developments and encourage those who served to share their stories.   

There has also been a change in my own status, as I have been posted, prior to retirement, to the Vancouver area, so will be looking to Grant Cree and Rachelle Foss to carry on with events, when possible, in the Edmonton area. Capt Magill will also help out until she posts out to Moose Jaw in June. I believe we have enough established at this point for folks to get proactive with the project in their own areas. And I strongly encourage any supporters of this project to get proactive. To have a successful book, no matter how many VIPs get involved at the top end, we must have the stories and images of those who served. That means I need YOUR help to make this project go viral. I have placed downloadable resources at the Media Kit page of the web site to support any presentations you might want to make in your respective areas. These will be updated and expanded as we move forward. I encourage you to put them to good use.

A suggestion for local area presentations is to stage a mini film festival, with clips from our YouTube Channel as well as “The Veterans” site. As more films become available I will put them at our YouTube Channel.

If you have the capacity to capture video footage on a handicam or your state-of-the-art cellphone you can even do on the spot interviews with those who served and upload them to our YouTube Channel. And have fun helping me take this viral! We need submissions from those who served!

Many thanks.

Publication Date

We had a meeting Sunday of a few key volunteers in the Edmonton area to address any possibility of a change in publication date. We’ve also had some feedback from Facebook and Linkedin discussions. While it was not a clear 100% consensus, the majority want to stay with the publicized November 2012 publication date with a submissions deadline of end July 2012.

We did, however, also decide that it would be a good idea to maintain the web blog past publication and continue to accept submissions. If there is sufficient CF and public interest (and additional submissions) and book sales of the 2012 publication require a second printing, we can then go to a second “revised” edition, or even an e-book, for Nov 2014, which would include all subsequent submissions and a distinct section dedicated to the training mission. This option also supports healthy, sustained engagement with cross-platform social media that is not dependent on a traditional publication.

Publication Date

There is currently discussion of deferring publication until 2014 so we can include submissions from the training mission as well as from the newly launched Veterans Art Project. There are pros and cons to a later publishing date, but so far the advantages appear to out way the disadvantages.

The primary advantage to publishing this year, beyond the fact that this was the original intent, is the desire to see the book completed and published.

Publishing in 2014 allows us to gather more input and make the publication more representative. An initiative like this takes time to catch hold, as it were, and many who served in the earlier years will be hard to reach within the next five months. To publish in 2012, we must have ALL submissions in by early July.

Publishing in 2014 will do more than support a more inclusive legacy album. It will also allow us to develop a more robust, cross-platform, marketing  approach that can benefit from the media hype that will accompany the end of the training mission as the end of Canadian military invovement in Afghanistan.

Unless folks can present strong counter arguments to these advantages to a later publishing date, we are inclined to go that route. In addition to strong arguments, we would also need to see far more proactive advocacy on the part of those anxious to publish early. Don’t just sit on the sidelines and watch content grow. Share your own stories and images. Encourage submissions from your buddies who served. Help us reach out to Afghan Veterans from the early years of the mission. Without the early stories the book will be incomplete.

Stories don’t have to be complicated or big news items either. We are looking for the human reflections of the day to day experiences in the Canadian Afghan Mission. Simple, personal moments and insights. And these moments need not be those you wrote in the heat of things. They can also be reflections made today, looking back. This is your story. Help us to tell it.

February/March Update

The Project:

First, a reminder on a few points.

“Afghanistan: A Soldier’s Story”  is not a DND project. Instead it is a volunteer, not for profit project, in partnership  the Edmonton MFRC.

The mission is to develop a legacy coffee table style book chronicling the 10 years Canada has been engaged in the Afghanistan conflict. We do not intend to create another academic dissection of the conflict or present the mission from the polished perspective of a professional writer. It is our objective, instead, to gather the stories and photos, your stories and photos, that capture the honest reflections, insights, and pivotal experiences of those who served.

Why you should get involved:

Help us share with Canadians the human face of the Afghan Mission, the insights and reflections of the Boots on the Ground who represented Canada and Canadian values so well in Afghanistan. Don’t leave these recollections to fade until some graduate student of Canadian Military History or a junior archivist from the Military Museum calls you up 30 years from now to ask for your story. It is not enough for Canadians to remember their military once a year on Remembrance Day. Our military is best served when it is a part of the day to day identity of Canada and Canadians.

For those who served:

Whether you deployed as a member of the Canadian Forces, as a civilian, or embedded with our troops as media, you each have a unique personal perspective worth sharing with Canadians. Why? Because many Canadians  still struggle to understand why we were there. Because Canadians tend to turn away from their military when the conflict is past confident the soldiers, sailors and air men and women will be there, ready, when the next conflict presents. This legacy album is an opportunity to provide  a better understand  of and appreciation for the extraordinary work done by ordinary serving Canadians.

For the friends and families of those who served:

We would like to provide  the children, partners, parents and siblings of those who served with a legacy album all would be proud to share, to show off, at school, at work, and in your homes. We want to make it easy for you to say with pride, “look what my Dad, Mom, partner, kid, did”

For the media who embedded with our troops:

You put yourselves at risk, alongside our soldiers, in order to bring home to Canadians a taste of the conflict. Perhaps not all of your stories and images were published. Perhaps you have never had an opportunity to share with Canadians the human face of the Canadian Afghan Mission. Now you can.

The Web Site

The volunteers on the project have created this web blog so you can share your stories and images, feedback on the project, and watch it as it unfolds. Submissions started to come in after the project launch in November 2011 but many of you appear to be pretty shy about sharing your experiences. We have 200 pages to fill folks! To make it easier, we have borrowed images and captions from Combat Camera from 2002 through to 2012. Who knows, perhaps your picture is already at the site? Have a look. We’ve also included a news timeline, borrowed from the National Post, so that you can better place your own stories within the context of the greater events happening around your individual experiences.


We have established a Facebook Group!/pages/Afghanistan-A-Soldiers-Story/310244442351004 and encourage you to “like” the project, “share” the project, and contribute your ideas, suggestions and even submissions to help make this book a reality. Help us make it go viral!


We have established a Youtube Channel and encourage you to help us build a collection of video clips here. Either by sharing your favourites or uploading your own. There is a documentary filmmaker currently interested in compiling video submissions into a film about the human face of the Canadian Afghan Combat Mission.


We have created a group where you can discuss the project, pass it along, and help to gather the stories and images essential to a successful publication.


We have created a group here too so that it is easier for you to share your photos and videos.

Contact Us:

Share the web site and drop us an email

We need your input, through feedback, stories, images, and video clips in order to build this worthwhile publication. Proceeds will be shared through the Edmonton MFRC with Boomers Legacy, the Military Families Fund, and the Soldier On Fund.