When Thomasena Mora heard four Canadian soldiers were wounded in the Panjwai District southwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on the Labour Day weekend, she tried not to worry. But her son (who cannot be named due to military operational security) knew his mother better than that. Stationed at the Kandahar airbase, he contacted her right away.
“He said, ‘remember what I told you,’” she recalled. “The military will never release the country of origin of someone who has been killed in action until the family has been notified.”
Mora must remind herself of this whenever she hears of casualties in Afghanistan, but it doesn’t get any easier. Mora’s son serves as a Captain with Canadian ground troops. He left CFB Petawawa at the end of August for a six-month operation, assisting with the training of Afghan troops.
While Mora supports her son’s decision to “serve his country,” it’s difficult to remain enthusiastic when she knows he’s in danger.
“As a mother, I struggle with, ‘Why do you have to go? Why did you have to stick your arm up?’” she says. She reminds herself that he wanted to serve since he was 10 years old, but she said, the politics of the current operation also makes things difficult for her.
Mora said she wished politics could stay out of it altogether. Political agendas, she said, heat things up and change the role of the troops.
“Canadians as peacekeepers is an awesome idea,” she said. “No one really likes war. This is the first time that we aren’t really peacekeepers.” Although her son wanted to serve, he didn’t necessarily want to do it in a war zone, she said.
At the end of September, Mora’s son e-mailed her, alerting her about Red Fridays. For months, e-mails have circulated urging Canadians to wear red on Fridays to show support for the troops, not necessarily the war.
Her son sent her an Internet link to a Toronto Sun column about a rally set for Yonge-Dundas Square in late September. The Red Friday, Support the Troops Rally was meant to be a non-political event to show the troops that Canadians are behind them.
Joe Warmington, columnist at the Toronto Sun, called for the rally in his column. He urged Torontonians to attend, regardless of their views on the current operation.
“There’s political talk and there always will be and should be,” Warmington said. “But, there’s grassroots support for the troops and we wanted to show that.”
Soldiers from around the GTA are serving in Afghanistan and it’s a moot point to debate whether they should be there or not, he added.
“I don’t understand how anybody could hinder young men and women who give up their lives up for this country,” he said. “You don’t get to take open shots politically or throw the agenda at the troops.”
Ward 7 Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti attended the event. He said Torontonians should all be supporting the troops.
“The people speaking out against this (Red Friday) are the ones creating politics around it,” Mammoliti said. “Anyone who doesn’t support (the troops) doesn’t understand why they can get up in the morning and live the life they live.”
For Mora, politicians in attendance at the rally did bring politics to the forefront of the day. Mayor David Miller and mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield attended the rally and stood onstage with the organizers for what Mora called publicity. But, she said, the message to the troops got through.
“(By) contacting them and telling them that we support them makes them feel like they have a reality back home,” she said. “It’s important for their morale.”