Words from a Broken Old Soldier
Since I have already released a fair amount of personal information via Facebook, I might as well make it a little easier to read and a lot more meaningful. I figured that since I had already unloaded more information than I had initially intended, I might as well ensure that my family and friends have a better understanding of how this old soldier broke. I have consolidated the information from several posts, and I have also added a little more perspective and amplifying information. I will be adding this information to my next book of poems, which I am in the process of compiling, and will call it, unsurprisingly, "Words from a Broken Old Soldier".
The recent violence in the Khartoum, Sudan has evoked a lot of memories. So, I thought I would post a few pictures on Facebook from images I that I took during the 2005 Riots in Khartoum. The images were from the first days of the riots.
This image shows the 2 streets that the Canadian Embassy sits between. The Unit I Commanded, lived, and worked in those green shelters. It was our home for 5 months. The Embassy is the building to the right. That pool was our saving grace. It was our stress reliever. I was very thankful that the Ambassador allowed the Unit to pretty much TAKE OVER their pool.
That was me, Captain Hardy, back then.
The violence grew significantly worse, and the Embassy was surrounded and cut off.
Fighting between the rioters and Sudanese Security Forces erupted between the street behind the Embassy and just the other side of the Cemetery.
Once Sudanese Security Forces pushed the rioters back past the Cemetery, the violence and damage then shifted to the Streets south of the Embassy.
A United Nations (UN) security element was then able to make their way into the district, which also contained the Indian Embassy just down the street. Once they moved in, the rioters moved into the adjoining district. Which thankfully took the associated clashes between the Rioters and Sudanese Security Forces with them. It took almost 3 weeks to get the situation fully contained. Official Sudanese figures of dead and wounded was probably only 25% of the actual numbers. That was my welcome to the Sudan first month. I came home a different man and I have not been the same since.
In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, which ended 20 years of fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Government of Sudan Security Forces. As part of that Agreement the South was given special autonomy and a new position of First-Vice-President of Sudan was created, John Garang, the Leader of the SPLA, was appointed to that position. Unfortunately, while on a visit to Uganda, the Ugandan Presidential Helicopter crashed, killing John Garang, six of his colleagues and seven Uganda crew members. Rumours began to circulate that the Sudanese Government had caused the crash to kill Garang. That was the spark that started the riots.
The Sudan had a huge impact on my life and subsequently, on my family’s life as well. At the height of the riots, we had 7 fires (Three buildings and four vehicle) just within blocks of the Embassy. At the end of the riots there were well over 100 dead in the streets throughout Greater Khartoum. Fortunately, other than the Embassy grounds taking a few rounds, which, at first, we thought was incidental fire coming from the fighting just 200 feet down the street. But that incidental fire was coming from the Sudanese Security Force side. At that point, most of the weapon’s firing was from the Security Forces. Then I was personally targeted while outside of the Embassy Wall at the back of the property. Poor design led to the Rear Gate Security Guard Shack being 50 feet on the other side of the Pedestrian Door and Vehicle Entrance Gate. Thankfully, the rounds landed in the ground in front of my feet as I made my way between the Pedestrian Door and the Guard Shack. Which was then manned by one very young and frightened Sudanese Diplomatic Security Force private, with a 7mm pistol and a 10-round magazine. I was very glad that there was no attempt to damage or breach the Embassy. The Unit was not equipped for a protracted fight. We were only permitted handguns with limited ammunition.
It has taken many years to get to this point. My Wife can attest to the fact that I started drinking more, pretty much immediately upon getting home. I did not give myself time to recover from the Sudan and just went into position after position of high tempo and high stress.
I had some very exciting and career elevating positions that kept me very busy. Completing the Plan for the Military Intelligence Support to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics; creating an All Source Intelligence Centre (ASIC) from scratch, Including having the deployable containers designed and built; training the ASIC personnel, moving/deploying everything and everyone to Vancouver; conducting our mission as the Commanding Officer of the ASIC (which I had to train and certify for before the deployment); then I had too close down the Unit after the Olympics and move/deploy the containers to Ontario for the G20 Summit. The planning for which I had initiated during all the Vancouver activity. Incredibly fulfilling and rewarding position, but a ton of stress and non-stop for almost two years.
I completed my Career with another two non-stop positions. Going to Canada Command as an acting Lieutenant Colonel (LCol) with the expectation of being employed in a Special Projects Planning Officer position. It was supposed to be a relaxed position. But no, the Senior Intelligence Officer (J2) for Canada Command was in the process of completing his training and preparing for his posting to the United Kingdom. So, I end up as the Acting J2. No longer a relaxing position, now I am responsible for the entire Western Hemisphere, from a Military Intelligence point of view. Oh, that is not enough. No, now add in the fact that Canada Command was amalgamating with two other Commands to become the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC).
My supposed relaxing position now gone; I end my 33 years as the CJOC J23. The Military Intelligence Operations Officer, now responsible Globally, for the provision of Canadian Military Intelligence Support to all deployed Canadian Military Operations, by managing a 24/7 Intelligence Watch; and responsible for all deployed Military Intelligence Operations, from a legal oversite mandate. As well as being responsible for the Canadian portion of a Joint Canadian/US Army Military Intelligence training program for select African Nations. Again, an extremely fulfilling and rewarding position. But again, non-stop.
Then I went from Mach 1 to Zero, when I was medically released after my knee replacement. Sitting in the basement, with no job, no hobbies, too much time on my hands, too much pain and alcohol. My body didn't heal. I had 5 surgeries on my right knee: 3 Arthroscopic and 2 Full Open Knee. The second Full Open Knee was needed because the pin holding the upper metal joint in place, popped out and was almost threw my skin.
In my own opinion, my breaking was not just from one specific event, but rather, an amalgamation of several events that had been held in check, some for many years, until the pain drove me into a very deep depression. The pain just would not stop and eventually, pain won the battle for a spell.
Now, I am partially to blame for my own sorrow. I fully admit that I decided not to take strong Opioids. So instead of opioids, I was mixing various over the counter and prescription medications, along with plenty of wine and whisky to wash it down. That level of self-medication, added to the large number of Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) I have taken over the years, has added to the destruction of my Stomach.
I have by no means had the worst that can be had. But, I have buried comrades, as part of their Honour Guard; I have sent Soldiers to their death, then had to be the Assisting Officer for the Wife and Children during the repatriation and funeral; I have spoken with colleagues and they be killed days later; I have had Enemy soldiers killed on my information; I have been shot at, with the rounds landing in the ground just ahead of my feet; I have had weapons pointed at my head and told I was going to die; and I have had a weapon pointed at my head, cocked, taken of safe and the trigger pulled, (Empty Magazine).
With 33 years of service, I have served in the Canadian Armed Forces as both a Non-Commissioned Member and a Commissioned Officer. I have served within both the Regular and Reserve Force. I have served within Army, Navy, Air Force and Joint Environments. I have worked at the Tactical, Operational and Strategic levels and have both Domestic and Internationally Deployed experience.
I am the only Canadian Military Officer to have been the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the East Timore Intelligence Response Team (ET IRT). A Unit created to provide Intelligence during Canada’s Military deployment to East Timore in 1999; I am the only Officer to have been the Officer Commanding (OC) National Communications Centre (NCC) Khartoum in 2005. A Unit created to provide support to the Commander of NATO’s Standing High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), which deployed to the Sudan at the beginning of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and I am the only Officer to have been the Commanding Officer (CO), All Source Intelligence Centre (ASIC), Vancouver 2010 Olympics; Operation (Op) Podium, Joint Task Force Games (JTFG). A Unit created to provide Intelligence to the Commander, JTFG, during his mission to support the RCMP’s Security Mission during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
I have no regrets with/for joining the military. I have seen a good part of the world, both the good and the bad. I have done and seen so much, and I have a good pension. Top that off with an awesome Family who have had to deal with so much but have always provided love and support. I am very lucky to have them. Try to imagine your Wife or Husband, and your Father or Mother writing poems about wanting to die and meaning it. My "Soldier's Book of Poems"
is filled with very dark and personal poetry. That is just a small piece of what my Family has had to deal with.
It has taken many years to climb out of my depression. I am not completely out, nor do I think I ever will be completely out. But I am not nearly as deep now.
Edmund Joseph Robert Hardy