Langford resident Bob Szpak finds himself reading about conflicts and wars since he served in Afghanistan in 2008. (Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff)

Remembrance Day brings back memories for Langford veteran

Deeper understanding of parents’ struggles appreiciated

Nov. 11 this year will be like most Remembrance Days for Bob Szpak.

He will find a place to stand during the service in Langford’s Veterans Memorial Park surrounded by hundreds of people, completely alone with his thoughts. Szpak spent six months with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan in 2008, serving as a physiotherapist at the base in Kandahar, helping to try and heal Canadian soldiers and Afghan nationals wounded in the conflict.

“My thoughts on Remembrance Day are based on my personal experiences, and what my mother and father went through during the Second World War,” he said. “Listening to God Save The Queen and O Canada always makes me proud to be a Canadian, especially based on the contrast with living in Afghanistan. You think about the people who sacrificed their lives for the good of others. You stop thinking about yourself, and think about the others that didn’t come back to give us what we have today.”

Szpak, who’s been married to Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak for 42 years, first joined the Canadian Forces in 1971. He left in 1980, before returning in 1983 until 1997. After another stint in private practice, he returned again until 2004. When the Canadian government made the decision to send troops to Afghanistan in 2008, Szpak volunteered right away. “I trained all of my life to serve my country and felt it was my duty to go,” he said. “It was demanding, but I felt like I made a positive difference.” He served with 1 Field Ambulance based in Edmonton, and retired with the rank of captain in 2012.

Although it’s difficult for hin to speak about what it was like in Afghanistan, Szpak believes it’s important to try and convey a sense of what it was like, especially to young people. That’s why he agreed to spend time speaking about his experiences with a local Boy Scouts troop shortly after he returned from Afghanistan. “I’m basically a shy guy, a little introverted,” he said.

He was quick to add, however, that no amount of explaining can provide the right perspective. “You can’t describe it unless you experience it,” he explained.

The experience has left Szpak feeling that in the end, any type of war or conflict is unproductive because of the amount of pain and suffering that remains with the living when the fighting is over. He spends more time these days reading about the history of war and conflict, in part to try and gain a better understanding of what brings the world to that point of no return. “We live in a global village now, so everything that happens in the world affects you,” he said.

“Tragedies like the massacres in Texas and Las Vegas affect people instantaneously…That’s much truer today than in the past. Forty million people died in the Second World War. My time in Afghanistan gave me a deeper understanding of what my parents went through. Before it was just a story, but now there’s an awareness for the suffering they endured that I didn’t have before.”

Find more Remembrance Day features on the Gazette’s website.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Pedestrain struck on Quadra Street

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Quadra Street at Hulford… Continue reading

Police respond after dog left in vehicle at the movies

West Shore RCMP determined the animal was not in distress

Three Sooke athletes compete at provincial swim meet

The Tyee Swim Club made a splash at the provincial championships earlier… Continue reading

Students urged to get bus passes

Students needing to take a bus starting in September are urged to… Continue reading

Victoria airport workers rally on Tuesday

Food service workers call for improved working conditions

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Island man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Fraser Valley music festival

James Allen Redden, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty of three charges

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Former Vike returns to lead women’s rowing program

Williams rowed for UVic, Oxford and Canada

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

City orders largest Kinder Morgan protest camp to leave

Residents of Camp Cloud near the Trans Mountain work site have 72 hours to leave

Most Read