Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wendy Hayward-Miskiewicz : The mothers also serve

My regular readers know I always honour the mothers of our heroes - especially our fallen heroes - who are also serving in this GWOT. I first introduced my readers to Wendy in a column I called A Mother's Heart:
Saturday, July 26, 2008

A mother's heart

One week ago I shared with you the news of Cpl. James Hayward Arnal who is the latest Canadian hero to pay the ultimate price in service to our country. You can read that post here.

Today, Cpl Arnal's mother spoke to the media about her precious son. We have often marvelled about where we find such brave men and women who step up to serve. Listening to this mother, I get an inkling.

Wendy Hayward-Miskiewicz:

Wendy Hayward-Miskiewicz breaks down after leaving a rose on the casket of her son during his repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton on Tuesday.
Wendy Hayward-Miskiewicz breaks
down after leaving a rose on the casket
of her son during his repatriation ceremony
at CFB Trenton on Tuesday.

(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

"We were like best friends. We talked about everything. He was an ambassador for life. He embraced life with every breath," said Wendy Hayward-Miskiewicz.

"Soldiering was so befitting to him, to protect the very freedom to live life to its fullest."...

"I will be honest. I had reservations about his second tour and I actually asked him to reconsider. But James's reply was, 'Mom, it's the right thing to do,' and I couldn't argue with that," Hayward-Miskiewicz said.

"He was raised to care about the things that mattered and to make a difference. He certainly didn't have to die to make us proud."

(More here)

Wendy started a foundation in James' memory called Carpe Diem88, which says on its home page:

This foundation was created in memory of James, for ordinary people who wish to do extraordinary things. Humanitarian work is needed all over this world and at home, Carpe Diem 88 Inc. is here to provide funding for those ordinary people who want to participate....

(More here)

I next was privileged to publish a column Wendy wrote about her trip to KAF:

Monday, March 22, 2010

I was...In the Middle of Nowhere

Cpl James Arnal

Cpl Arnal's mother Wendy and brother Andrew besides James' plaque.

Canada has been in Afghanistan for eight years, and in that time 140 of our men and women have given their lives in extraordinary acts of courage and bravery for their country. Cpl James Arnal was the 88th soldier to sacrifice all. His mother Wendy, and brother Andrew, went to Kandahar last September. What follows is Wendy's account of their journey, in her own words:


(c) Wendy Hayward

I was fortunate to travel to Kandahar Air Force Base with our military and experience something awesome, and I mean that in every sense of the word. This phrase covers the whole spectrum of impressions, and that is why I feel compelled to share my experiences and the validation it gives to our cause and the global crises of not only 50 million landmines in over 70 countries, but also the need for the help necessary in a country that has been riddled with wars for over 30 years. The more I research this crisis, the more daunting the task seems to become. I was told by someone recently that it would take 500 years to rid the world of all the landmines! There are reported to be over 650,000 landmines in Afghanistan ... the middle of nowhere.

To me Afghanistan, and more specifically Kandahar Air Force Base, is an area that prior to being there was more surreal than it is to me today. Upon my arrival, “the middle of nowhere” became real in many ways – physically, mentally and emotionally. This was no longer a place described to me by my son, but rather a reality that he lived and that I needed to experience for myself. “The middle of nowhere” wasn’t just the geographical location of Afghanistan to me, but rather the place my son died; and I knew I needed to experience it as part of my journey to not heal – because I don’t think I ever will – but cope with this loss. This trip made the middle of nowhere real.

I was taken as far and as close as I could go safely to where my son died. This story does not depict the level of risk, physical endurance, and courage it takes to go outside the wire. I was left feeling that heaven and hell is just outside that wire. My son is out there ... in the middle of nowhere.


I remembered my son being quoted in an article on Remembrance Day November 2006, “We’re here so that these people can have the same opportunities we have back home ... and not have dictatorships such as the Taliban telling them what to do. I hope they’ll be remembered as brave people who stood up for things that other people can’t or are too afraid to defend.”

If you didn't read that the first time, be sure and read it now, here.

Today, I read that Wendy is now again in Kandahar on a six month tour as a civilian supporting the Canadian troops:
Letter From Manon Ducharme(CFPSA) English Translation

Wendy is a member of the CFPSA staff. She has been in the theater for two weeks out of a six month contract serving the soldiers on the Kandahar base. But her presence here goes way beyond the mission. Her presence here is a pledge of forgiveness, of understanding, of knowing the solidarity that exists between soldiers, in order to finalize her bereavement without the process extending forever.
July 18, 2010

Wendy is the same age as me and she has a particular charisma and a light that is all her own. Wendy is the mother of two children. On July 18, 2008, Wendy received a call from the Winnipeg military base announcing its visit.

In spite of herself, she found herself in the worst scenario of a war movie… They knocked on her door and entered in a heavy and heart-rending silence, to announce the death of her son James… who died during a patrol in Kandahar. He was 25 years old. It was his second mission in Afghanistan.

Is there worst suffering than the death of a child? Is there worst suffering than loosing a son to a war?

Fortunately, the Canadian Forces offer support to bereaved families. More particularly for the families that lost a member in Afghanistan. Several times a year, the Canadian Forces propose a visit of a few days to the Kandahar base to families who lost a member, to help them with their bereavement. A very weak consolation but certainly helpful to the concerned families.

Wendy accepted this offer. Last year, she came to Kandahar. This short visit allowed her to get to know the surroundings, to impregnate for a short while the atmosphere that exists at KAF, and to meet and discuss with soldiers who lived alongside her son before his death. Trying to understand how much her son loved to be in the army. Trying to understand what animated him so much about this mission in Afghanistan.

Then Wendy noticed the Canadian civilians working on the Kandahar base. She would never have imagined that civilians would of their own free will come here as support staff to the Canadian army. How great was the surprise … so great that on her return she took steps to apply for CFPSA posting in Afghanistan. What courage to take these steps when we know her story. She was chosen. How could it have been otherwise? CFPSA is very sensitive to these particular cases.

Wendy arrived in Kandahar a few weeks before the anniversary of the death of her son James. It is with my heart brimming with emotions that I attended the celebration of her son’s death anniversary date. It was July 18, 2010. There were several of us from CFPSA, the General, the high-placed of this military world and Wendy, all fragile and strong at the same time, immersed in emotions. I will not hide from you that when she knelt in front of the plaque of her son, the emotion was at its most intense.

We were all reunited in a very special meditation place on the Kandahar base. A place where we find all of the black-marble commemorative plaques with the photo and date of death of each Canadian soldier who died in Afghanistan. A place which attests to the hard reality of this world, a place where one cannot remain indifferent, a place of deep contemplation for us, for the families, for the military.

The following morning, I sat with Wendy, wanting to inquire about the state of her morale. I will never forget that moment. The blue of her eyes could not betray the intensity of the gaze of this woman, a mixture of serenity, of peace and of suffering at the same time. A vital strength, an energy emanating from her words. Wendy does not want us to forget her son, Wendy wants the memory of her son to live through time. Each look that Wendy has here represents a small par of her son. She sees him in the eyes of the other soldiers, she feeds from these moments in order to cure her suffering. But for Wendy, there is one small consolation about her bereavement that she shared with me. She knows that her son would not have wanted to die in another way. She knows that her son was proud to be in the military and for nothing in the world would he have had another profession…

Can we now, through Wendy’s story, carry in our heart James’ memory, in order to accompany Wendy in her quest for inner peace?

I found this on the Carpe Diem88 FaceBook page here.

At the end of the column Wendy wrote back in March, Wendy wrote:

Thank you to you all and Godspeed your safe return. My heart is with them ... in the middle of nowhere.

Wendy Hayward

Mother of Cpl James Hayward Arnal: KIA – July 18, 2008

President and Founder

CarpeDiem 88

I know many of my regular readers joined CarpeDiem 88's FaceBook page, and there is a letter from Wendy on there from KAF. The last two paragraphs:

[...] Freedom, human rights, living a decent life; are worth fighting for and are worth dying for and most importantly worth remembering. For if you die fighting for these precious values, you have died so that someone else benefits by them. There is no greater sacrifice and this is what defines our heroes. My biggest fear is that we forget and I take great comfort when someone else remembers.

James did not want to watch the world go by on television. He wanted to be a part of history and something greater than himself. He was proud to be Canadian and prouder still to be a Canadian Soldier. I see him in the eyes of everyone I have the privilege to serve here in KAF and I do it in his memory because his buddies were so important to him. I do it because he is teaching me the meaning of life … particularly my life. His death continues to present me with many gifts, first and foremost incredible people! James was all about people and he continues to introduce me and surround me with the best … The Cdn Military and especially PSP, masters in the art of seizing the day!

Thank you does not describe what I feel in my heart. James is in my heart and he would say … Carpe diem my friends!

Not a day goes by …

On that page is an opportunity to leave a message of support for Wendy. I plan on leaving one myself; will you, please? (Here)

Wendy, I now say to YOU:

You really ARE no ordinary woman, and you ARE doing extraordinary things...Thank you, Godspeed your safe return. My heart is with YOU ... in the middle of nowhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since I became a Soldiers' Angel in 2006, I have come to know or learn about the most awe-inspiring women I've ever known in my life. Some are Angels, some are bloggers, some are spouses of warriors, and many are mothers of fallen warriors. The past four years have been filled with tears, some of joy and many of heartbreak. I wish that the families of the fallen know how much we grieve with them whether they be American, Canadian, or British. I continue to pray for peace.