Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment

Dealing with being home from Kandahar

The following was written by a soldier of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, who was deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment in August 2006. Wounded in a friendly fire incident, this is his story. Originally posted at the forum, it is reproduced here with the author's permission.

Cpl Ryan Pagnacco; 8 Pl, C Coy, 1 RCR; (attached from RHFC)

Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) provide a safe mode of transportation in addition to continuous perimeter security for Canadian soldiers patrolling in and around in the Panjwaii District approximately 30 kilometres west of Kandahar City as part of Operation MEDUSA. Photo by: Sgt Lou Penney, TFA OP ATHENA, Imagery Technician, Sept 2006

October 16, 2006, 02:04:16

It has been 2 month and 2 days since I deployed to Afghanistan, with 8 Platoon, Charles Company, 1 RCR. I was honoured, as a reservist augmentee, to be attached to such a great group of probably the best soldiers our country has to offer.

In the three short weeks I was in Afghanistan, I learned more about commitment to my military family than most soldiers learn in a life time. It seemed both unfortunate and amazing that it took battle and blood shed to forge such a strong bond.

It has been 1 month and 12 days since I was wounded and pulled from the battlefield. When I was in the hospital in KAF, I had hoped that I would stay in Afghanistan to recover. Why would I want to stay in such a horrible place that almost claimed my life? I didn't want to leave my family.

Germany and Toronto (hospitals) were a blur of Morphine, Demerol, Fentanyl, IV lines, wound packings, shrapnel removal surgeries, catheters, bad food, and good care. I think back on it and it seems dizzying. But when I close my eyes, only 2 images flash and they take me back to where I'm supposed to be.

I see Panjwayi; the fields of pot. Rockets and bullets. The smell of burning and the heat. Then all I see are the bodies of soldiers I helped carry to the CCP. 2 covered by body bags (WO. Richard Nolan, Sgt. Shane Stachnik) and 2 on stretchers; my Platoon Warrant Offiocer (WO Frank Mellish), and a soldiers I new only casually from living in the shacks in Petawawa (Pte. Will Cushley)

While at the CCP I find out that a very close friend (from my reserve home unit) had been wounded by shrapnel from Taliban RPGs. His section's LAV had been left on the battlefield. For a long while, I didn't know how badly he was wounded. (He's still over there, thus no names) I'll never forget the feeling; the sense and fear of loss. I will never forget those who were lost that day.

I try to think of the good times I was privileged enough to have with my Platoon WO Mellish made me the unofficial piper of 8 Platoon, (shortly there after; Coy piper) and I played reveille as per his request (and everyone else's distain) anytime I was able. In dreams I still hear him shouting "Piper!!! Black Bear!!" … The last tune I played on my pipes… at Panjwayi. (I still don't have them back)

When I close my eyes, I also see the morning after Panjwayi. Sparks, smoke, fire … then the burp of the main gun of the A-10. I remember the feeling of panic as I crawled for my Weapon and PPE, thinking we were under attack. I can still feel the burning on my legs and back, the shock of thinking my legs were gone.

I can see the faces of the injured… the twice wounded soldiers of Charles. I see the face of the soldier who saved my life by applying tourniquets to my legs and stopping the bleeding from my back and arm … (He will remain nameless for now)

From then, everything's a blur until I'm back in KAF. I remember asking if everyone was 'ok' … Reaching from my gurney to other wounded soldiers walking by, trying to peace together what had happened … more confusion. I asked again and again … Pte. Mark Graham. An inspirational man whom I only really started to get to know shortly before deploying, a brother in our family of warriors, was dead. My heart sank even more.

Our CSM (who was also wounded) came over to me and asked if I was going to be able to play the pipes for the ramp ceremony the following day. I held up my right hand, which was numb, and looked at my fingers. The tips of two of them looked like they had been chewed up in a blender. I felt tears run down my face. Not because I thought I'd never play again, but because I couldn't play for my departed brothers the next day … I would have given both of my hands and more for their lives.

I had hoped to attend the ramp ceremony the next day, even if I couldn't play, but I couldn't move my legs and they couldn't put me in a wheel chair because of the shrapnel in my back. I was sedated that day, and came to on the plane to Germany.

I couldn't attend any of the funerals of my fallen family, and I feel no closure.

It has been a month and 12 days since I lost my brothers in Panjwayi and it might as well have been yesterday.

When I close my eyes at night I not only see the ones who have paid the ultimate price, but also the ones who are still there… and I feel as though I am betraying them.

My life seems to be dragging me on. My fiance and I are planning our wedding and future. My family and I get together often. I've been able to socialize with my friends… and yet each thing I do here makes me feel guilty, because I shouldn't be here to enjoy this.

I wake up every day and plan and plot. I think of only one thing; how can I get back to my family… How can I get back to Afghanistan? My wounds are almost healed. Only 3 holes left and they're almost closed. I can walk pretty well now, but I need to run.

My family and friends don't understand. They don't want me to go back. My fiance has threatened to end our relationship if I chose to return… and yet this doesn't dissuade me. I have to get back to my boys. I have to get back and do my part no matter the cost to me. I love my family here in Canada, but no one's shooting at them.

Every time I see more soldiers killed over there a piece of me dies, and I feel the urge to return grow stronger. And each day I enjoy in my freedom here, I feel as though I have betrayed their memory. I need to finish my job over there. I need to go back.

I can only think of the families of those who have died, and I can only say this, and hope it provides some solace: A warrior's sword is made from the finest steel, forged by hammer and anvil to create and edge, baptized in hot coals and flame for strength, then quenched in cold water to harden it.

Our brotherhood of Warriors, the finest of men, has been forged by Battle; Baptized by fire and Quenched by tears…

We became and will always be a fraternity of blood with a bond stronger than death.


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With other members of the CF, Cpl Pagnacco was invited to attend the Toronto Argonauts game on 28 October 2006. During that game he was able to have the following photograph taken for the Regiment:

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Pro Patria

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