For Sylvia Rooker the war in Afghanistan came down to winning over the women civilians.
“I got to know seven women there,” she said. “I would learn to speak their language and they loved that. They were not used to being treated with respect.”
Sergeant Rooker served with members of the Canadian Forces deployed to Camp Julian, in Kabul. “Operation Athena” called for ensuring the security of the area, developing institutions and building relationships with local women civilians.
“They were sad when I had to say my good-byes,” she said. “They knew that when (we) left the camp they would get no respect.”
Rooker expressed her frustration that despite their best efforts in Afghanistan things were not progressing smoothly.
“We would feel like things were getting done until the next group would come in and have to start almost from scratch because the building was torn down,” she said. “The padre I was with worked on building a girl’s school. I don’t even know if it is still there. We all put so much effort into it.”
One year at Christmas, Sgt. Rooker sent gifts to those women who had worked with her.
“They thought socks were great gifts for Christmas,” she said. “It’s incredible. A gift we take for granted brought so much joy to them.”
Despite having finished her tour in Afghanistan and working for the Canadian Forces support training group headquarters, Rooker still gives gifts to those women every year.
“My kids asked me what we could send,” she said “We went to the dollar store. A tube of lipstick meant the world to them.”