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The Gift of a Pen

Heroes Remember

The neat part was children. The children over there, you would see them running towards the convoy when you were miles away. And you are working with these, you know, the convoy you’re stopped at whatever spot to have a village outreach or a where we would CIMIC - our civilian military cooperation would come out and give out supplies and food and wheat and feed and different things to help the village. You would see what looked like old men running towards you but they looked like midgets. It would strike you very odd but the kids had the look of being 90. They were, a lot of times they were thinner, they were emaciated from lack of proper nutrition. The eyes would look like someone that was in their 90’s and you thought it looked like someone had shrunk a grandpa down and it was very disturbing but you could feel the age these kids had lived in the short time they had been there and then you know you could tell they had suffered and that was hard for us. But the best gift you could have was a pen. I carried a pen, I was writing my notes as I went into villages. I was taking information down and the kids would try and take the pen away from me. We started giving away pencils and pens and they didn’t want the pencils, pencils were like firewood, they didn’t understand the concept. But a pen and a school book we would give them, the school book went to their parents, they would use it to wrap food of for other purposes, it wasn’t for writing. But the pen, we’d go back to a village a month later and people would come and they would show all of the beautiful Arabic writing on their arms. They had used the pen to learn how to write and then they would show you how to write their name. And they would be so excited that they had been able to learn and they were able to now understand what their name was. It was huge and you can’t put a value on that part of the mission. Give them the roots and the tools they need to look after themselves and they will govern themselves. And I think anyone over the age of 12, you are really not making any kind of change to, it was those kids that were younger that we had an opportunity to hopefully guide them to a better future. Family and friends would send boxes of pens to us to hand out because they were so valuable to the kids. And you take those good things away and you balance that against the negatives and you don’t always balance out completely, it’s not a budget but, you know, if we made a difference for one kid maybe we can give them some hope for the future. But life is very cheap in Afghanistan.

During Mr. McCue’s interactions with the children, he soon learned that the best gift you could provide was a pen!

Robert McCue

Mr. Robert McCue was born August 22, 1972 in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. During his youth, he joined the air cadets and contributes this as a turning point towards a military career. Joining the Reserves, Mr. McCue became a part of the South Alberta Lighthorse Unit formerly known as the South Alberta Regiment. He accepted a deployment to Bosnia in 2003 as an infantry section commander, holding rank of sergeant. Later, he accepted a position with a newly developed unit, PSYOPS and deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. During this time Mr. McCue worked for Canada Post. Having a strong interest in military history and respecting the contributions made by his grandfather during WWI, Mr. McCue had the opportunity to travel as part of the delegation to Vimy in celebration of the 100th anniversary, an honour he will cherish for a lifetime. Mr. McCue presently resides in Edmonton, Alberta with his family.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
April 3, 2017
Person Interviewed:
Robert McCue
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)

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