Americans often forget that there is a coalition of countries who are fighting and sacrificing in Afghanistan and Iraq along side of us. This is the story of two Canadian soldiers who have paid a price, but are not letting it stop them....
OTTAWA, Feb. 10, 2009 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff heard firsthand accounts today about the mission in Afghanistan from Canadian soldiers who recently returned from deployments there, including two amputees who have elected to stay on duty.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met with about 40 soldiers. Among them were Cpl. Billy Kerr and Master Cpl. Mike Trauner, who lost limbs to improvised explosive devices in separate attacks outside Kandahar.
“As has been the case for me in recent years, whenever I sit down with those who have been injured, I come away more inspired by them than I had expected and anticipated,” Mullen said during a joint news conference. “These are two great men who look forward to fulfilling their own dreams. It was an honor to be with them.”
Kerr and Trauner share not only similar injuries and therapies, but also a belief in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan and a desire to continue serving in the Canadian army.
Kerr, 41, is a reservist who volunteered for his second deployment to Afghanistan, where he served as an embedded mentor for the Afghan National Police. “I thought it was something worth doing,” Kerr said of his decision to return. “I felt like it wasn’t done.”
Kerr’s second tour of duty was a near-constant fight, with the enemy uncomfortably close to his base. “At 300 meters you got shot at, at 400 meters you were in a big fight, and at 500 meters you were at their door,” he said.
But as an infantryman, he said “wanting to get in the thick of it” was simply “what you do, … part of your mentality,” so he embraced the mission as he patrolled with the “Razorbacks,” a unit that blended infantry and military police troops.
During a foot patrol in October, Kerr was the fifth soldier into a doorway when a remote-controlled blast severed both legs and his left arm from his body. He never lost consciousness, and remembers looking at what was left of his body and expecting -- even wanting -- to die.
He didn’t. Rushed for care at Kandahar Airfield, then Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, then back to Canada, Kerr cheated the death he had expected.
Less than two months after his injury, he was took his first steps on two prostheses. He expects to be able to walk with a cane by late April.