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Story Time

October 1st, 2006

I was at the Toronto rally in support of our troops on Friday. I had a nice spot stage right at first, took some good pictures. Then I decided to wander around, get some crowd shots, act like the faux journalist that all us bloggers really are. I finally took up a spot stage left, fairly close to the action. I was standing in the crowd next to Gordon Lightfoot for a while; Police Chief Bill Blair was 10 feet away; Mayoralty candidate Jane Pitfield passed within three feet of me. A pretty good spot for a guy playing photo-journalist, in other words.

At first, I didn’t notice the man standing in front, and to the right of me: Directly in front of Mr. Lightfoot actually. He had on a red shirt with a picture on the breast. Then Lt. Col. Cliff Trollop, the highest ranking officer in Toronto, and one of the people putting on the rally, came over and talked to him:

“I noticed the picture on your shirt, is it a relative?” The man, who I can now identify as Errol Cushley: father of Pte. William Cushley:

William was 21 years old on September 3rd, 2006 and had been in Afghanistan less than a month when he and three others where killed.

When Mr. Cushley told Lt. Col. Trollope who as on his shirt, Trollope’s head jerked as though somebody punched him in the jaw.

I won’t go into detail, but Lt. Col. Trollope handled a difficult conversation brilliantly, with grace and, I fear, experience. Mr. Cushley informed the Lt. Col. during the conversation that his wife couldn’t make it, was not up to it yet.

Then Lt. Col Trollope asked Mr. Cushley if he would come up to the stage and speak. He assented.

I watched Mr. Cushley closely after that. I kept thinking that, while I agree with the mission, agree that Canadians belong in Afghanistan, I knew that if given the deal, the Faustian bargain, my son for the mission, I would say no: Let the damn Taliban have the place, let them have this one too. I’ll give Canada over to the Muslims, rather than pay that price. But Errol Cushley paid the price, and here he stood barely three weeks later, supporting the troops, supporting the mission even.

He never cried, although the edges of his eyes were bright red. He had a friend with him, and what a friend. He rubbed his back, sympathized beautifully, giving him comfort without smothering him. Now that I knew who he was, the grief was palpable in him. Yet he did it. With five minutes warning, no prepared notes, he walked onto that stage, he said his few words. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was immensely courageous. He made it through without crying, but only just. And I suspect, because he only spoke for about thirty seconds. I watched after as he did interviews for the real media, graciously giving his time, his dear friend hovering forever nearby, forever protective.

I came home from the rally, and i wanted to tell everyone about meeting Gordon Lightfoot. Yet today, twenty four hours later, it is not Gordon Lightfoot that I recall, not Gordon Lightfoot that I want to talk about. I held firm, unlike others, I didn’t weep yesterday. Not until Errol Cushley got on that stage and spoke his three or four broken sentences.

Every Remembrance Day I say it. Lest We Forget. And I promise, I never will. But until yesterday, I didn’t fully understand what I was remembering. Next month, when I go down to the Hespeler cenotaph and “Remember,” I will remember Pte. William Cushley above all others. I will silently pray for his dear father, and I will never forget the sacrifice his family made on our behalf, at our bequest.

From LFR

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  1. Adrian MacNair
    November 5th, 2006 at 22:37 | #1

    A beautiful story. I can’t imagine that sacrifice either. I suppose only a soldier can understand what it takes to give your life for unwavering love of country.

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