Today in the Edmonton Sun
KANDAHAR -- Tiger Williams settled onto the bench in front of our quarters at Kandahar Airfield.
The NHL's legendary tough guy was decked out in the kit of the Canadian Forces, "Tiger" name tag velcroed into place, the ever-present dust coating his combat boots, fresh from visiting the troops at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wilson the night before.
He was helicoptered up "over the wire," as they say here (outside the umbrella of the relative security of KAF) along with former NHLer Troy Crowder and Glass Tiger frontman Alan Frew and keyboardist Sam Neil. They went to get a close look at what our troopers face near the front lines and give them a few minutes of respite, the NHLers playing a little ball hockey and Frew and Neil giving an unplugged mini-concert.
"When I get back (to Canada), this month is when I have to send in my quarterly taxes. That's the only day I'll feel good about it after last night," he rasped. "I might even give them a tip."
That pretty much summed up the feelings of many of the members of Team Canada, the collection of NHL alumni, five-time Juno winners Glass Tiger and Ottawa's Amanda Rheaume Band who spent six days at Kandahar playing ball hockey with the troops and putting on a full-blown concert. It was an experience Team Canada members said changed their perceptions of what Canada is doing in Afghanistan and forged a new appreciation for our armed forces, one experience at a time.
There was a rocket attack at KAF the afternoon of the day Team Canada arrived and the reality of what our soldiers, airmen and sailors face was hammered home the second day when three Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. Perhaps the moments that will stay the longest with me were those on the tarmac at KAF when Team Canada had the opportunity to attend the ramp ceremony with thousands of fighting men and women from around the world to honour the fallen soldiers, their flag-draped caskets loaded into a Hercules aircraft for the first leg of their trip home.
"I was stunned by the silence. It was deafening was what it was," said Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald of the ceremony to honour Warrant Officer Dennis Brown, Cpl. Kenneth O'Quinn and Cpl. Dany Fortin.
McDonald, the father of two sons, was overwhelmed by what he had seen and heard in the wake of the deaths of the soldiers.
"It is not going to change the course or the determination. If anything, it makes them more steadfast," said McDonald. "The attitude is 'we need to change this, change it for the little girls who can go to school now.' "
McDonald was the most popular of the NHL alumni, giving tirelessly of his time, signing countless autographs and often wandering off at the mess hall or across a dusty road to meet soldiers and hear their stories.
"Hi, I'm Lanny. What's your name? Where you from?" he said countless times.
What became clear was the high regard in which McDonald was held by his peers.
"Is Lanny here?" they'd ask before our bus would pull out. When told he was, they'd say, "OK, we can go."
It was in the way they made fun of his dancing, former Flames teammates Perry Berezan and Colin Patterson mimicking his "disco" moves. The Lanny Mac Dancers took the stage at the end of the band's performance in Kandahar and formed a chorus line with soldiers while Glass Tiger sang Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone. It was the bittersweet moment of the trip.
Minutes later we were on the bus to attend the ramp ceremony for the fallen soldiers. That was the trip, a jumble of emotions.
Former Ottawa Senators goaltender Ron Tugnutt visited the base hospital and met Sapper Darryl Dawson, the 23-year-old from Whitby, who was driving the vehicle in which the three soldiers died after it was blown up by an improvised explosive device. Dawson scrambled to help a soldier wounded in the blast.
"Less than 24 hours after it happened, here was this young man in front of me saying he still had a lot of fight left in him," said Tugnutt. "Your legs just turn to marshmallow. He was so strong."
Dawson told me the story of getting a coin from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk in the hospital and fulfilling a promise he had made to Cpl. Fortin. Earlier in their tour, they had been on parade and hadn't received the coveted souvenir coins given out by commanding officers because of a mix-up.
Dawson told Fortin he would get them coins. When the CDS heard the story from hospital staff, he gave Dawson a coin for Fortin, too.
"That made me happy that (the general) got me the extra coin. I got Dany a better coin than I said I'd get him. I got on the plane and said good-bye," said Dawson, who placed the coin on the pillow atop the casket, along with Fortin's beret and a medal he received.
Here is the link of the entire article http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Canada/ ... 6-sun.html