CFB WAINWRIGHT — A year ago, he was in Afghanistan on foot patrols sampling goat meat. This September he is going back.
Pte. Mark Fält, a 24-year-old Red Deer native, is with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and is going to Afghanistan for his second tour this fall.
Fält attended Hunting Hills Secondary and graduated from Koinonia Christian School in 2003. He said that he joined the army because it was always something he wanted to do.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to take in college,” he said, and he worked a few jobs after graduation before joining the Canadian Forces.
Fält’s first tour of Afghanistan was in 2008. He’s looking forward to seeing what progress has been made.
“I want to see how much it’s changed,” he said.
Fält’s mother, Brenda, says that she is supportive of his decision to return, although it isn’t easy.
“We’re excited for him because he’s excited,” she said.
“We’re more nervous now because we know what goes on. At first we didn’t really know and understand things. Now that he’s come home and opened up a little bit, we know what to expect,” she said.
His mother saw a huge change in him when he returned.
“He was so young when he went there but when he came home he was so grown up,” she said.
Fält acknowledges his parents’ concerns.
“I know my mom’s worried but they’re both proud of me for doing this,” Fält said.
His first tour was memorable — and hot.
“We actually had a thermometer explode on us. I was there from February to September, so I was there for the whole summer season,” he said.
He was on foot patrols to increase security in local villages and provide a sense of safety.
“The market that was near us you could tell was improving,” he said.
Soldiers on tour are usually away from home for at least half a year, more if work-up training is included. Such a prolonged absence from home is difficult for the soldiers and the family. During his first tour, Fält tried to keep his mind on the job at hand.
“Mostly I never try to think about back home. I just focus on what I need to do,” he said.
But even after soldiers overcome the mindset of being away, they must then deal with the stresses of possible insurgent attacks. Fält said that he pushed those thoughts from his mind.
“It’s not something I dwelled on. I would freeze and I need to do my job,” he said.
Returning home at the end of tour means enjoying the comforts that one could not have while away. For Fält, that meant ice cream.
“As soon as I was home, I bought an entire container of [Häagen-Dais],” he said.
As for the goat meat, Fält may be eating it again this time around.
“It wasn’t something that was so horrible I wouldn’t eat it again,” he said.
While Brenda and her husband Ron deal with Fält leaving again, they take comfort in knowing what it will be like when he comes home.
“When he came home [from the first tour] it was one of the happiest days of our lives,” she said.
Gregory Sawisky is a freelance journalist formerly of Red Deer.