BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – A long-serving Canadian soldier and Listowel native shared his experiences and views on peace keeping with the launch of his second book Saturday night.
Lt.-Col. John Conrad spoke to an intimate crowd at Listowel’s Theatre 3-11 on Oct. 20, reading selections from his new book, Scarce Heard Amid The Guns. Conrad referred to the book as “an insider’s tour of peace keeping” and said that, like his 2009 book What The Thunder Said, it is full of emotions.
“It’s not just a regurgitation of history and sifting through operation orders,” he said. “I’m not a historian, I’m a storyteller, so in a lot of ways it’s very similar in style.”
While Conrad believes his 2009 book is a more raw presentation of his experiences from Kandahar and the war in Afghanistan on his tour as the Commanding Officer of the Canadian Logistics Battalion from February to August 2006, he maintains that parts of Scarce Heard Amid The Guns are just as vivid 20 years later.
“There are pieces that I think are just as visceral and relevant as the Afghanistan book,” Conrad said.
A member of the Canadian Forces for almost 30 years, Conrad first served as part of a peace-keeping mission for seven months in Cambodia in 1991, and again for seven months in northwest Bosnia with the NATO Stabilization Force in 2000. In describing some of the experiences from his time in Cambodia, Conrad spoke not only about the physical battles, but also the mental battles that soldiers face.
“It takes a soldier a long time to come home from some of these missions,” he said. “Some of the most intense fighting a soldier does is with himself.”
Conrad believes the story of Canada’s role as peacekeeper is an important one to tell, especially as one of the leaders in peace-keeping around the world under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1956, and that there is still value to the role in the aftermath of the Afghanistan war.
“It’s a great way for Canada to help in this world, and I don’t like the way it’s been set aside as something that’s inefficient and not working,” Conrad said. “There was a lot of courage and some good things too.”
Despite not being a militarist, Conrad firmly believes there remains a place in this world for warriors, leaning on the idea that freedom isn’t free.
“I do know there is meanness in this world, there are people and ideas in this world that still need warriors,” he said.
Conrad is also critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to skip the United Nations General Assembly this year, and is cautiously optimistic that Canada will return to its role as peacekeepers around the world.
“I know it’s not high on the Prime Minister’s agenda, but at the same time so many Canadian values are congruent with what the United Nations stands for,” Conrad said. “Canada has so much to offer the world.”