By: Deb Robert
I am proud to be Canadian because my dad was one of the peacekeeping Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan. I am proud of him. He wanted the world to be a better place for everyone.
My dad wanted the world to have peace. When he was in Afghanistan, he built schools for the kids. He wanted to make people feel safe, especially women and children. He protected those who could not protect themselves.
When my dad was a little boy, he always wanted to be a soldier, but as much as he loved being a soldier, he loved being a dad too. And he gave up his life for freedom, and I will always remember him on November 11 on Remembrance Day with all the other soldiers who died. – Emily Wilson
Young Emily wrote these words in grade five as a dedication to her father, Robert John Wilson, who was killed in Afghanistan at age 37. Deployed with the Canadian contingent of NATO forces, Robert was a highly awarded Warrant Officer serving as a member of Task Force Kandahar’s Operational Mentor and Liaison Team. He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan with plans to be an instructor once his rotation ended.
On December 5th, 2008, during a joint patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers west of Kandahar City, Robert’s armoured vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. He was killed along with fellow members of the 1st battalion, Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren and Pte. Demetrios Diplaros.
Raised in Keswick, Robert Wilson loved hearing his grandfather share stories about his 35 years in the Canadian military, sparking young Robert‘s vocation. “He grew up hearing about the camaraderie of the military,” says his mother, Anne Wilson. “Rob liked the discipline. He wanted to be a leader, dedicated and professional.” By age 12, eager to get started, Robert joined the Queen’s York Rangers Army Cadet Corps.
“He had 100 percent plus commitment. He was so proud of selling poppies and marching to the cenotaph in Keswick.” At age 18, upon graduation from Sutton District High School, Robert headed straight to Toronto to enlist in the army. Says Anne, “His need to keep peace and help others was strong.” Robert completed basic training in Nova Scotia followed by infantry training at Petawawa.
He was army all the way and knew he would be a career military man. In the first Gulf War, Robert was launched into active duty as part of the alliance to liberate Kuwait. “He helped protect the medical team,” says Anne. “At first you don’t think about war, only about peacekeeping, but there were shots fired.” During the early 1990s, Rob did tours of duty in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. “Sometimes he felt a lot of this had to be kept private, what should and shouldn’t be said.”
Years later that would change as Rob prepared for his second tour of Afghanistan. “We had conversations before he left the second time,” says Anne. “He spoke about taking care of certain things: “Mom, if anything happens, it has to be Beechwood (cemetery). That’s where my comrades are.”
Travelling in the motorcade along the Highway of Heroes after the repatriation ceremony for the three lost comrades, Anne found it “breathtaking to watch the number of people on a freezing cold day standing on bridges and along the roadside. I felt so much pride that so many people were there to honour them.”
Anne is unrelenting in her support for the military. “I’m proud of everything Rob did. I’m proud of all our servicemen and women. Mine didn’t come home. We can only help those who do come home and be there for them. We’re so fortunate to have freedom here in Canada. Kudos to our army. It can bring us to tears, but it’s a lot of pride that we have.”