During the 2012-13 years, Prince Albert resident, David Hodson, served with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan National Army. Upon his return, he settled into his civilian career as a criminal defence lawyer, but the political and religious turmoil throughout the world challenged him to “do something, anything” that might contribute to a more stable, if not peaceful world. Deciding upon a course of action, to address the challenge, was not going to be easy.
David had previously prepared for deployment to the Middle East. Specifically, preparation for Canada’s Op Proteus made him more than familiar with Jerusalem and the work of the United States Security Coordinator. Accordingly, with strife in Syria, Iraq, and the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) wrecking havoc across both countries, David’s interest was once again drawn to the Middle East. While he was vacationing with his son in Israel, when the first rockets were fired from Gaza, which ultimately escalated into a fifty day war between Israel and Hamas, David’s decision was made. He decided to serve Israeli interests, and contribute to the maintenance of Israeli security.
Israel is a beacon of democracy and progress in the region, but has been saddled with an unjust reputation on the international stage. As a result, it made sense that protecting the stability and security of Israel was instrumental to restoring regional peace. Of course, David was not under any illusions that world peace was near, but as he stated, “pun intended, a person can only fight one battle at a time”.
In September, David travelled back to Israel, to join other volunteers working in support of the Israel Defense Forces, otherwise known as the IDF.
Interestingly, he did not need to shed his Canadian uniform when he donned the uniform of the IDF. Nor did he need to replace his Major’s stripes when he, in essence, began doing the work of an enlisted soldier.
Contract and operational security prevent David from discussing which base he was assigned to or the work he did. What he did say was, the base was described as “a secret base” and he worked harder than at any other time during his military career. More significantly, he found the experience more meaningful than comparable experiences in Afghanistan. “It is hard to describe, and probably harder to understand”, David said, “but, I and the other people I was with, were part of something special, contributing to a greater good. Each day we were proud of the work we accomplished”.
This pride was reinforced when soldiers of all ranks, including a few recently injured during the trouble in Gaza, expressed their gratitude and thanks.
Israel has fought and survived many wars with her Arab neighbors. As a result, within her there is a unity of spirit, regardless of the religious or political foundations of her people. For David and the other overseas volunteers, working together to support the IDF, maintains and facilitates the survival and growth of people desiring peace, while surrounded by those seeking their destruction. While preparing for his fourth tour of duty in Israel, and from the comfort of his Prince Albert home, David said, “freedom is never free!”
Finally, during this time of celebration, it is important to recognize that Canadians are blessed to be living in a country free from strife. Others are less fortunate, and whether welcoming Syrian refugees, supporting the IDF or contributing to international charities, much can be done to make the world a better place.