When I began writing Life Stories late last year, I reached out to a relative who is a member of the Canadian Forces.
I asked if he knew any old soldiers who might want their stories told, or young people who might want me to write about a parent or grandparent who served in the Forces.
During a bit of back and forth, he made the point: “Military men are reluctant to tell tales ... There is a code and that code is hard to crack.”
I made it clear I was no longer working as a journalist, that these Life Stories are private, to share with family, and only posted on my website archive with permission.
That’s how we left it, my last communication on the subject.
But I still want to connect with veterans – because I’ve been drawn to stories about soldiers since my earliest days in the news business.
In my first reporting job, with the Livermore Herald & News in northern California in 1968-69, I wrote:
Also, when I taught college journalism in the early 2000s, I assigned my students stories pegged to Remembrance Day every year.
Though I was never in the military, I have an abiding respect and admiration for those who serve.
I’ve had family members and friends who went to war. All survived.
It wasn’t until late September 2006 that a solider I knew died in a combat zone.
Josh Klukie had gone to school with my daughter Jodie when we lived on the north shore of Lake Superior in the 1990s. They’d been good friends.
On Sept. 29, 2006, Private Klukie, 23, stepped on a roadside bomb while on foot patrol with the 4th Platoon, Bravo Company, First Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Last September, I spoke with his mother and wrote a story about Josh to mark the tenth anniversary of that terrible day.
Though the piece received much praise, I was especially gratified by a message sent to daughter Jodie – and passed on to me – from a career officer in the Canadian Forces:
“That is a great article about Josh. Surprisingly few Canadians understand what happened in those years, and your dad captured it beautifully.”