Joy and relief as B.C. soldier returns from war
There was great relief for one Kelowna family this Easter weekend, as M. Cpl. Andreas Swoboda returned home safely from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
"It's heaven! That's all I can say, because I haven't got a voice right now. It's just so good to have him back," said Ellie Swoboda, the soldier's mother. She knows that it hasn't played out as well for the families of 118 soldiers who lost their lives on previous missions.
Swoboda, a longtime reservist with the B.C. Dragoons, took a year's leave from his job at ICBC for his training and tour of duty.
His wife, Amanda, is relieved now that the six-month tour is over.
"It's wonderful and I just wish the same for everybody else that has a loved one overseas. I'm very proud of him, very grateful, very blessed," she said.
Their emotion is charged with the knowledge that it could have ended differently. It is a fact that has weighed on the whole family for the six months that Swoboda has just spent in Afghanistan.
The soldier himself feels it, too.
"Usually it comes across the blanket that there's been a soldier killed in Afghanistan, and I just think about my wife, I think about my mom and know that their hearts are going to sink until that name comes out," said Swoboda.
"And I know for them, they're never so relieved that it's not myself or whoever it might be, and you just feel terrible for the families."
Seven years after the first Canadian arrived in Afghanistan there are about 2,700 serving in one of the most dangerous parts of the country around Kandahar. Canada is currently committed to a presence in the area until the end of 2011.
No amount of military training takes away the kind of apprehension such a tour can give to soldiers and their families and Lt. Colonel Cliff Jamieson, Swoboda's commander in the B.C. Dragoons, is quick to acknowledge it.
"When they do come back, we're quite pleased and a little relieved that they're safe and sound," Jameson said.
Back at the office at ICBC, it's like more family. His safe return means a great deal to one co-worker, Leif Bengtsson, because his own son is about to take his turn in Afghanistan.
"It makes me feel a lot better. It's been tough," Bengtsson said.
Other co-workers have a hard time grasping why anyone would volunteer to serve in such a dangerous place.
Brenda Campbell said she and her co-workers worried about Swoboda every day while he was gone. When she asked Swoboda why he volunteered, she got the answer she needed.
She says Swoboda told her he hoped his one tour of duty spared other members of the forces from having to serve repeat visits to Afghanistan. "If my tour of duty leaves one family member an opportunity to stay home and miss one other tour of duty, then my mission was well served," he told her.
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat.