Canadian Corporal....58.....on third tour in Afghanistan

Corporal in Afghanistan to 'give back'

Cpl. Eric Hjalmarson, 58, gunner for the LAV holds pictures of his grandfather Gester Hjalmarson (left) and dad Fredrick Hjalmarson which he carries with him at all times while on tour in Afghanistan. (Jason Franson/Sun Media)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD - Cpl. Eric Hjalmarson joined the army at 50. 
Now at age 58, he's on his fourth tour of duty, his third in Afghanistan. 
And he sees the progress Canada's mission here is making.

"Going through Kandahar, there's way more people now, the pattern of life is a lot friendlier to NATO troops and areas are building up," says Hjalmarson, with 1PPCLI in Edmonton.

"Even in the smaller villages, people are willing to come up and give you information about insurgents. Before, they were so scared of contacting the troops, scared of reprisals.But now they realize we come into an area, stay there longer and provide them with protection so they are willing to take more of a risk and help us."

The Vancouver Island native - whose son just completed a fourth tour in Afghanistan - says he hopes more Canadians are beginning to appreciate the efforts of the mission here.

"Canada is a great place to grow up, people take a lot for granted, and I think everyone should have to come to a country like this and appreciate what they have."

Being a soldier, he says, is a way to give back.

"We're here by the invitation of the legally elected democratic government of Afghanistan. They asked for our help because they want to get rid of these insurgents that are trying to take back this country and oppress it.

"Everybody should have the right to live without being oppressed. But you go through these villages and look at these little kids hardly big enough to walk and they're carrying wood for fire and herding goats. They don't have a childhood here."

Hjalmarson, a grandfather, is hopeful they soon will.

In the arm-sleeve pocket of his camouflage, he slides out photos, one of his father, the other his grandfather - both proud decorated soldiers.

On the back are poems he's written for army comrades, one of whom died in battle. He himself survived an IED blast in February 2006.

Hjalmarson isn't sure what he'll do when mandatory retirement rolls around at 60.

He turned 50 in battle school.

"Bars are meant to be raised," winks the former millwright and machinist.

"It was my last chance to do something I always wanted to do."
Wow, most his age would be feet up watching their arrse grow. 8O
Well done that man.

Thank god we have laws in this country that allow guys his age to serve.

One of my work mates is joining and he is his 50's

From Vancouver Island.
Sadly I am 57 and did my tour in KAF at the beginning of the year. I have been passed fit so may get one more tour in before I finally give up, or my body does. I have to admit it is harder and harder to keep the weight down these days. I wonder if my bus pass will be valid in Bastion ??

Similar threads

Latest Threads