Most people only remember the soldiers and veterans who were involved in the war.
But another aspect of remembering so often lost is remembering the parents of soldiers all around the world who had to watch their son or daughter go off on a mission not knowing if they would see them again. Elsie Eelhart was one of those parents on two separate occasions.
Her son Chris joined the reserves in 2000 while still in high school. This was the start of a journey that would lead him to serve two separate tours.
His first tour was in Bosnia in 2003 and he would later go to Afghanistan in 2008. Both times he left for duty, there was a sense of doubt whether or not he would be coming home.
Luckily for the Eelhart’s, he returned home both times.
Chris was mainly involved with peacekeeping missions on both of his tours and says that his experience was one he won’t forget and one that forced his hand.
“It was a good experience. You become really close with the people you are deployed with. But I joined when I was young so it made me grow up really fast.”
And while serving isn’t always a happy topic to discuss, one of Chris’s stories from Afghanistan shows the lighter side of serving.
“There was one time where we were in the middle of nowhere. We were sitting out there baking in the sun for 30 days. We were headed back to camp and were travelling in the dark and we were following a convoy. One of the tracks on my vehicle broke and we got stuck. We tried to radio for help but our radios weren’t working. Eventually another convoy found us and helped us get out. It was an interesting experience.”
But for Elsie, the uncertainty of what Chris was doing made it difficult for her while he was on tour.
“It was scary when he was in Afghanistan not hearing from him for days and not knowing the danger he was in. We are so thankful that he came home safe and sound. A lot of people were praying for his safety and our prayers were answered.”
While this was a difficult time for the family, Elsie says it was made easier by the ability to have conversations while he was gone and also says that the base in Lethbridge was helpful through the process as well.
“We kept in touch with him, but you never knew when he would call or how long the conversation would last. The connection could end at any time. Conversation was difficult as he couldn’t tell us where he was or what he was doing as the military never knew if the lines were tapped. We sent care packages through the base here in Lethbridge and they were so helpful and supportive during the whole time he was on tour.”
For Chris, he said the most difficult part of being on tour was the time spent away from family but that they were also very reassuring of his decision to serve.
“The most difficult part was not being able to see them. It’s a big sacrifice you have to do. You miss things that your family does while you’re away. But my family understood what I was doing and supported me. I didn’t feel guilty about what I was doing.”
But serving is still something that Chris took very serious and he felt proud of what he was doing.
“You’re doing what needs to be done. Being part of a mission like that, you definitely have a sense of pride. Not a lot of people are willing or able to do something like that. Knowing what soldiers in the past have fought and died for, you feel a great sense of pride being able to be a part of something like that.”