What was the point?
This remembrance day I can’t help but hear my brothers and sisters anguish and lament as they ask the question, “what was the point?” They’re asking what was the point of my sacrifice, what was the point of my comrade’s sacrifice? When in the end all we fought for was only returned to the same enemy’s hands we had been so successful at pushing back. Two years ago I was at a remembrance day ceremony for my children’s school while we lived in BC. I came across a picture on the wall that said a girl’s name and addressed the soldier in the picture as her father. I was in shock, I knew this face, I knew this man, he was a kind-hearted individual who had invested time into his city, his province and his country. He had been one of the role models I looked up to when I was younger. I was in cadets when I had the opportunity to meet Mcpl Colen Bason, I was also in cadets when he had made the ultimate sacrifice in 2007. Mcpl Colen Bason was killed in Afghanistan on July 4th, 2007 that same day 5 other Canadian soldiers fell:
Corporal Cole Daniel Bartsch
Captain Jefferson Clifford Francis
Corporal Jordan James Anderson
Captain Matthew Jonathan Dawe
Private Lane William Thomas Watkins
These soldiers do not outweigh the sacrifice of the other 152 Canadian soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. But the soldiers who I name link to this story I am trying to tell of Mcpl Colen Bason. Mcpl Colen Bason was a role model to all who somehow related to the military, he was an impactful individual. A good samaritan. Four years after his death I resolved to join the Canadian Armed Forces at 20 years old, and I had every intention of making the same sacrifices that so many of my fellow brothers and sisters in arms had made before me, thankfully I would never go to Afghanistan. But sadly the year I joined in 2011 was not without its sacrifices. Four more soldiers would make the ultimate sacrifice that year.
1 month before I joined Corporal Yannick Scherrer made the ultimate sacrifice.
1 month after I joined Corporal Karl Manning made the ultimate sacrifice.
2 months after I joined Master Corporal Francis Reginald Roy would make the ultimate sacrifice.
And finally 6 months after I joined Master Corporal Byron Garth Greff would make the final ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
For Canadian soldiers, Afghanistan had become personal. It was no longer just an order to go and fight, it had now become a war. Canadian soldiers were fighting not only for the rights of young girls and women in Afghanistan but they were fighting to honour their fallen brothers and sisters. They were fighting so that those deaths would not be in vain. And by all accounts they were successful.
Fast-forward to when I met Mcpl Colen Basons daughter at that school remembrance day ceremony. I was there with two other veterans, two brothers who served the Canadian armed forces since they were young. One had served in places like Bosnia and Syria, the other had served with the PPCLI and had been injured in the line of duty, both have their ghosts that haunt them on remembrance day. And it was clear this young girl had a ghost that haunted her on a remembrance day as well. Every remembrance day she would sit quietly in tears trying to remember what she could about her dad, remembering stories she heard and pictures that would not age his face, but this particular remembrance day there would be a veteran in the school who knew her dad and who could tell her about her dad’s willingness to sacrifice for something he believed in. This particular remembrance day this soldier would be kneeling on the floor, at eye level telling this little girl, that her dad believed in her freedoms so much he knew he had to go and give some other little girl a chance of a lifetime. A chance to be free from oppression. A chance to be a lawyer, a doctor, or maybe a judge. And with his sacrifice and so many others, Afghani women got to taste this freedom that was so valiantly fought for. As I knelt with this girl and told her how great of a man her dad was, parents and teachers recognized this moment of a soldier through his tears sharing, while this little girl through her tears listened to a new account of how impactful and honourable her dad was.
Fast-forward to 2021 when the allied forces pull all armed forces out of Afghanistan like someone pulling a band-aid off of a partially healed wound. What would I tell this little girl today?
The question that is being echoed by all those I know who have served in Afghanistan is this “what was the point?”
I can’t help but feel we have or will all face similar questions today. For instance, because of a couple of bad apples in our police forces, it seems like all police officers are painted with the same negative brush, they may be looking at themselves in the mirror knowing if they are in a fight for their lives that day they may be judged harshly by the public. Their thoughts as they fasten up their utility belt might be “what’s the point?”
A doctor or a nurse trying to treat their patients as best as they can, see a rotating door of patients coming in and out without a reprieve in sight. As they rest their forehead in their hand while filling out yet another chart at the nursing station the thought comes across their mind “what’s the point?”
A firefighter coming home from another bad accident involving kids recklessly driving, likely leaving one of those kids in a vegetative state for the rest of their lives, might be thinking as he sits on the edge of his bed before making sure his pager is on its charger “what’s the point”
I couldn’t help but think of the story where Jesus walks beside two disciples who were battling with this very question after Jesus’ crucifixion. What was the point? Let’s look at Luke 24: 13-34
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.”
As these two disciples travelled along they were lamenting the crucifixion and passing of Jesus Christ. They had known all that had been promised, and they were hoping that Jesus was the Messiah who would rescue Israel in a very human way (some during this time hoped the Messiah would destroy the Romans with a sword). But in a very human way, these dreams seemed to be shattered. So the risen Lord himself chooses to appear to them while they are in the middle of this conversation, which one could only imagine contained the question “what was the point?” Upon hearing their lamenting and confusion, Jesus pointed out that nothing has changed. The prophecies had all stated that Jesus would have to come and then suffer and die, only to be raised on the third day. Jesus pointed out that though things looked bleak if the disciples only looked at all that had occurred they would realize that the prophecies had still been fulfilled and the Messiah had indeed come and it wasn’t about worldly salvation but everlasting salvation. A chance at a new covenant with God the Father Himself, through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes even though we are blinded by the negative in the situation, we forget about the good that has been promised, and we don’t see the good that has come from that situation. The negative always seems to outweigh the positive.
Jesus had to remind his disciples what was promised, and what had been achieved and then at the blessing and breaking of the bread, the disciples realized it was indeed Jesus who was talking to them, and they realized that Jesus had indeed defeated the grave.
We need to remind ourselves that in what we deem as a bad situation, often there is still an overwhelming amount of good coming from that situation as well.
So what would I tell that little girl today? I would tell her nothing has changed. Her dad believed in the freedom of others so much, he believed in her freedom so much, that he was willing to volunteer and go fight so that some little girl on the other side of the world could taste the same freedom his little girl could enjoy so freely today.
The fight wasn’t in vain, people in Afghanistan tasted the freedom they could have, young girls became Doctors, Lawyers and even Judges. Young children learned how to play music. Girls learned how to defend themselves. Many many families made their way from Afghanistan to other countries around the world and have become contributing members of their societies.
Whether responding to the worst day of someone’s life, or responding to that repeat offender, or treating a patient just to receive another. While you are asking yourself what was the point, as you are watching a situation you tried so desperately to calm as it is boiling over like water being dumped in a deep fryer, remember in that chaos you were someone’s anchor, you provided a way for them to navigate that storm in a way that they never would have been able to before. You provided them with a taste of what life could be like. And some of these people will keep on working to make life for others around them a better place because you worked so sacrificially to make their life a better place.
Like Jesus came to the disciples and reminded them of the promise that was fulfilled with his death and now resurrection. This promise of everlasting life for everyone who would believe in him. Jesus helped to alleviate the burdens of the disciple’s questions of “what was the point”. We can all help carry the burdens of those around us, who are asking the same question “what is the point?” whether they are a soldier, first responder, or they work in the hospitals sometimes a simple heartfelt thank you is all they need to hear to give them the energy to get back out there and be a light in someone else’s storm.
And what was the point? The point is to believe in something so much, to love those around you so much that you are willing to sacrifice for them and others no matter what the cost.
“There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for another.” John 15:13