As a Canadian I thought I understood when our government sent troops to Afghanistan.
Then, I met Kevin Nanson. And, for the first time, I felt sincere heartfelt pride of what Canadians did in Afghanistan.
Kevin’s story is compelling. Kevin heard, repeatedly, he wasn’t going to make it. He was very badly injured, but remembers giving orders to his troops even when his very survival was in the balance.
Now, six years later, Kevin has an incomplete spinal cord injury. He uses a wheelchair and doesn’t have feeing in his hands.
“My wife says I can’t cook anymore,” he says before breaking into a grin. “I was cooking several times and looked down at my fingers and they were red, but I couldn’t feel anything.”
Kevin under went 15 surgeries to re-construct his skull, which was broken in nine places.
As a result he has constant headaches.
Kevin is 41. He’s married to wife Kim and has four children.
It could be very easy for Kevin to be bitter. He was part of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan to help the country become better.
Kevin talked about working with the Afghan police force to assist them in becoming more effective.
Canadians weren’t attacking anyone. And in the end, Kevin got attacked.
So it only makes sense Kevin could be bitter. He has every right to be. The Niagra Falls, Ont. native could also be very angry.
Not this man.
When Kevin signed up for the Canadian army he accepted the risks of being a soldier.
One risk was his life. And while he didn’t lose it, he came back home with lifelong challenges.
He says he isn’t bitter. Or angry. He was, simply, doing his job as a Canadian soldier.
I was introduced to Kevin to write a piece about the Wounded Warriors Weekend scheduled for the first weekend in August. The four-day weekend honors war veterans who have been injured, but also provides them with some fun — fishing and golfing — as a chance to say thank you … and, we are thinking of you.
A May 28 golf tournament at the Petroleum Golf and Country Club is raising funds for the August weekend which has a $800,000 budget.
Kevin will be at the golf tournament. He will also be at the Wounded Warrior Weekend, an event he greatly appreciates.
As a reporter I think I got the facts I needed to write my column.
But I got something more: a personal look at what Canadian troops stood for in Afghanistan.
Kevin Nanson made me proud to be Canadian.
In my May 18 Edmonton Sun column, he candidly shares his story of being injured in a roadside bombing.
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