I found a pair of ID discs in Croatia in the spring of 1993, in front of our platoon house in Bijela, outside of Daruvar, in the Former Yugoslavia, when I served with anti armour platoon, 2 PPCLI, Roto 2.
What follows turned out to be one of those karmic incidents one only reads about.
As the tour progressed, I stored them with my kit and forgot about them. The battalion bugged out for Sector South and through the hustle and bustle of that move and the subsequent Medak operation, those ID discs stayed with my kit.
We redeployed home, and the idea of returning them faded from my list of things to do; careers resumed; postings back and forth; the Red River Floods of 1997, along with the Big Move to establish Garrison Edmonton, as we abandoned Currie Barracks; instructing Moro Platoon through Battle School; drum majoring at the Halifax Tattoo; raising a family; deployments to Wainwright, Suffield, Shilo and all our other second homes; all the while, these ID discs stayed in the box that every soldier has, a collection of collar dogs ,VP buttons, pin backs and the assortment of militaria one collects over a lifetime of soldiering; somewhere in there -2000?- we paraded in Winnipeg, and received the Governor Generals Unit Commendation for Medak. Shortly thereafter, the horrors of 9-11 occurred and the nation called on us again.
I don’t think any of us foresaw the events of 9-11, who we would lose, or any of the triumphs or tragedies; I certainly did not foresee the chain of events that would re-link Cpl Storm and myself.
In 2005, I released with permanent injuries, and watched the Afghan campaign as a civilian; the DND, forgetting I was a cripple, sent me a letter asking if I wanted to be a CIMIC officer [my missus said ‘no’]’
2006 was hard to watch, as the pain of reading of Cpls Gomez, Keating, and Reid, and Sgt Ingram, and other Regimental brothers I had never met, all brought the same amount of grief.
It was with a deep and profound sense of loss that I read of Cpl Storms death in Afghanistan, in an IED explosion. Although I had never met him, I could tell what he was like just by reading his obituary: an honest, hard-working corporal, one of the many that keep this army of ours on an even keel. It was at this time, I thought of returning those ID discs, but school took up my thoughts, and graduation in 2007 from SAIT happened, and my first civilian job ever took up all my time.
In 2008 we shared the pain and grief of those who lose a loved one to war; my nephew, Mike, Jims son, whom most of you know, was killed on 3 Sept 2008, in an ambush. The details of those awful days are a haze, but we have soldiered on, like we were taught. By now, Cpl Storms’ ID discs have taken on an holy relic status for me; to be returned at all costs on a grand pilgrimage. The only thing standing in my way is that I don’t want to.
Fast forward to the end of the Afghan Campaign and 09 May 2014, the National Day of Honour: My brother Jim has invited me along to honour his son, Mike; we have just seen Mikes name on a plaque at the front of the room, and our faces are starting to melt. Just as I regain my composure, I see a heavy set gentleman, limping back to his seat, with a look of grief on his face that words cannot begin to describe.
A habit of soldiers is to look for a name tag, as I have been doing all morning; I can now put the faces of grieving relatives to the names of the fallen, and it affects me deeply when I see that the heavy set gentleman’s’ name tag reads GEORGE STORM.
My eyes mist over, and I move as fast as I can to catch him and introduce myself; I confirmed that he was Alberts brother; I then recounted this same chain of events to him, of finding Alberts dog tags, the death of a nephew, and finally, seeing and meeting relatives of the fallen, those incredibly stoic and courageous people who are the biggest supporters of our forces deployed across the seas.
Finally, my quest to return Alberts’ ID tags is almost complete: I offer to mail them to him, and then jot his address down in the notebook I insist on carrying. George sadly tells me that they never found Alberts’ ID discs, and I am again deeply saddened for his loss- all the losses, of the brothers, sons, sisters and mothers, nieces, nephews and cousins and friends, to the Afghan Campaign. Despite being total strangers, we have bonded through the loss of a loved one. I will speak to several families that day and share the same invisible bond, with Mrs Mellish, Mr Beauchamp, Mr Cushley, the Shipways, the Ingrams, The McKays, Mrs Bartsch, Pete Kariagganis and his mother; the list is long. There is no regimental affiliation with the relatives of the fallen; we all share and bond in grief and the memories of our fallen. They all shared with me the circumstances of the loss of their loved ones; I was grateful and honoured for the opportunity to hear those deeply personal recollections.
I return home on Saturday, feeling a sense of closure in another chapter in the book of losses we suffered; we are changed forever by their loss, and we cannot-must not-ever forget them.
Fortune smiles upon me and I find Alberts’ ID discs within seconds of opening my box of uniform EIS; finally, a long quest, my pilgrimage, is almost complete.
Almost 21 years to the day since I found them, Cpl Albert Storms ID discs are slipped into a mailbox, enroute to Keewatin , Ontario, to his brother George. I hope that he gets a certain measure of comfort from them; at one time, Albert wore those ID discs, and part of him has rubbed off on them.
The circle- my circle- is complete.