An old soldier just lives with his memories

Maybe it was only a kid holding the AK-47 assault rifle pointing at Bill Fletcher’s face. But he was a kid whose long young fingers danced gingerly on the trigger of a lethal weapon.

Bill Fletcher with his husky Sierra outside their Westridge Estates home in Red Deer County. Over his career

Maybe it was only a kid holding the AK-47 assault rifle pointing at Bill Fletcher’s face.

But he was a kid whose long young fingers danced gingerly on the trigger of a lethal weapon.

Years since his posting with UN peacekeepers in Rwanda, the retired colonel recalls remaining totally calm as he moved the barrel of the rifle aside and asked how he could assist the young soldier facing him.

He says the incident never has come back to haunt him, nor have any of the other tragedies that played out while he served as an army officer in Rwanda and later as civilian contractor in Bosnia.

“I just shrugged it off. I would guess it’s because I became jaded.”

Every tense moment, every brush with tragedy, was simply set aside, sealed away as yet another bad memory.

“I think soldiers have to do that all the time.”

Others continue to suffer immensely from the pressures put upon them combined with the horrors of the theatres in which they served.

Armed, but prohibited from using their weapons except in self defence, UN peacekeepers dealt with a constant burden of frustration as they formed a blue-helmeted human wall between enemy forces, says Fletcher from his acreage home west of Red Deer.

Since the trench warfare of the First World War, nearly a century earlier, the line between enemy forces has become more and more blurred, says Fletcher.

It’s next to impossible for Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan to know who is on what side of the conflict there.

He absolutely supports Canada’s program in Afghanistan, although the defense aspect of the 3D strategy is not working. Based on defense, diplomacy and development, the defense aspect has to succeed for the development program to work, says Fletcher.

He and his wife, Darlene also look at the Afghanistan war from their position of parents of an army officer. Now filling an executive post in Ottawa, Lt.-Col Bill Fletcher commanded a company in 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during 2006.

You don’t worry, but there is concern, says Fletcher.

Fletcher had set his own path to the armed forces from the get-go, joining the army cadets in 1955 at the age of 12. He volunteered for the regular forces as soon as he was able to enlist, joining the young officer training program with hopes of getting a job in the infantry.

The new recruit was offered three options, selecting infantry as his first choice, artillery as his second and logistics as third.

He was placed in the Royal Army Service Corps — the section responsible for managing the movement of people, products and weaponry.

While Fletcher spent most of his career at home, he was posted to three different overseas jobs, starting with a seven months in Cypress as a Canadian member of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there.

His involvement in international conflict didn’t end there. After retiring from the army in the late 1990s, Fletcher took his skills to army contractor ATCO Frontec, responsible for providing and maintaining the Canadian camps in Bosnia, where his son had also served.

These days, there’s a big yellow ribbon posted at the driveway leading to the Fletcher family home. And if there were any doubt about the feeling behind its message, a smaller version is pasted on the garage door.

Remembrance Day is a time to honour the soldiers lost in battle, says Fletcher. But their sentiments shouldn’t be limited to that one day. He would like Canadians to spend a moment or two every day thinking about those who have died serving their country — including the 133 lost in Afghanistan.

Just Posted

Lacombe council seeking answers about policing cost overruns

Council surprised to find out about $240,000 policing budget shortfall

Red Deer fundraiser to help educate Somali orphans on May 11

The Mother’s Day event is for all ages

Lacombe to join municipal coalition spreading the word about importance of resource industry

Resources Communities of Canada Coalition to represent municipalities connected to resource industry

These blues will get you dancing: The Overdue Blues Band performs in Red Deer Saturday

Calgary’s Brother Ray Lemelin Band is also on Elks Lodge bill

Gardening: Time and effort key to buying garden plants

Greenhouses, garden centers and box stores are set to start selling bedding… Continue reading

Montreal native Nicholas Latifi off to solid start on Formula 2 race circuit

Practice makes perfect for Canadian Nicholas Latifi. The 23-year-old Montreal auto racer… Continue reading

Bruins victory over Leafs ensures an American team will hoist the Stanley Cup

TORONTO — Many NHL players were either not yet born or too… Continue reading

Swole, buzzy, among new words in Merriam-Webster dictionary

BOSTON — Get swole, prepare a bug-out bag, grab a go-cup and… Continue reading

Garner graces cover of People’s annual ‘Beautiful Issue’

NEW YORK — Jennifer Garner graces the front of this year’s “Beautiful… Continue reading

Updated: Joshua Arthur Sanford has been found, says RCMP

37-year-old Ponoka man last seen on Tuesday morning

Inspired by a galaxy far, far away, these ‘Star Wars’ mementos could be yours forever

CHICAGO —The stuff of “Star Wars” —and there is unfortunately no better… Continue reading

Shoppers Drug Mart launches second online medical pot portal in Alberta

TORONTO — Medical cannabis users in Alberta can now get their therapeutic… Continue reading

Most Read