He pauses. "I can't say enough about our young soldiers. The men, and the women. They are so good. They are so dedicated to the mission. Think about it. They are mostly in their early 20s, and they chose the military. Putting their young lives at risk, fighting for freedom. They could have chosen a civilian life, doing what kids their ages do with friends, going to parties, having fun, but they didn't."
His eyes moisten. "They've seen more in six months than the average person sees in a lifetime." A smile. "Because I was far older than they were, they'd take the mickey out of me. They called me Old Balls."
Several times Jed Stone and his buddies engaged the Taliban in firefights. "It's strange, but in a firefight, you don't feel fear. You don't have time. It's all adrenaline and training and resolve. Canadian soldiers are the best in the world. Soldiers there from other countries, and that includes the Americans and the Brits, look up to us. They have the highest respect for our training, ability, and character. They'd often ask us for advice."
Stone's unit, The Wolfpack, took some prisoners. "One Taliban guy we caught, he cried like a baby begging for mercy. Yet the same bastard would cut your head off if he had the chance. They don't value human life at all."
Stone knew personally some of the Canadian soldiers recently killed by exploding IEDs. "One of them, just a kid, we all loved him. He was always upbeat and funny. Some of the guys, they'd sat down to rest against a wall. One of them, when he went to get up, he put his hand on the ground and the landmine underneath exploded.
"Our Afghan interpreter got killed, too. He'd be with us in the villages when we were talking to the people, trying to win their trust. Giving chocolate bars to the kids. He was a great, young guy. We loved him. He was educated and he loved the Canadians. He was glad what we were doing for his country. We took up a collection and gave the money to his family. He didn't tell them what his job was. If the Taliban had found out, they'd be murdered."
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