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Understanding the Afghanistan Culture

Heroes Remember

Understanding the Afghanistan Culture

Some of the most beautiful sunsets and stars. The sunsets, because of the amount of dirt and dust in the air, you would get like thirty two layers or colour off of the mountains and it was just this brilliant colours of pinks and oranges and browns, they’re still seared into my memory of how beautiful the place could be even though it was the dark side of the moon as far as rock and dirt and not much greenery anywhere. The people were, were around the water, you could always tell there was water around if there was houses and small orchards and stuff that they would build next to the waterway. Anything else, there was not a chance. The village of Bum, Afghanistan. We would watch it overnight, the next morning we saw people walking out of the village with jugs. They walked for an hour to get water and they walked an hour to get back. Every day they had to go, an hour walk with water. And, you know, you can’t fathom that here in Canada, water is as far as the tap is in most cases yet, you know, they survive, they live. They manage every day and a friend of mine, her mom asked her to describe Afghanistan and she said, “Mom, you remember watching Passion of the Christ?”, “Yep!” “Picture that but with less Romans and add cell phones, that’s Afghanistan.” You would see a man ride up on a camel and he would throw one leg over the hump and he would stop and watch what we are doing and then he’d reach into his robe and out would come the cell phone and he would start making conversation. You know there’s these juxtapositions, sorry, of these things, it’s hard to fathom sometimes – you’d go into a village, you would hear what sounded like an exercise bike, you look over into a compound there’s a kid peddling away on a bicycle and he was providing power for the TV inside the mud hut and the mud hut had a satellite dish coming out of the side of the mud hut and you’re just like, how can this be possible? You know, you’re in the middle of nowhere and yet things happen that you wouldn’t expect. The people in the most part in Afghanistan were incredibly welcoming. We would pull into a village that had never seen American, Canadian NATO Forces at all. We were going into some pretty wild places in the Shwalicott Mountains and the terrain is rugged and steep and diverse and we would go into the village and they would come out with tea and they would bring you chai (inaudible), black tea or green tea and they would offer it to you. And it’s hot out and you’re thinking oh god I don’t want anything hot but you have it to help you cool down. And we would have sentries up on the hillsides and they would walk up with tea to all the sentry positions and give every soldier some tea. And once you’d been allowed into their, invited into their village they were very friendly. And the best part about my job being PSYOPS is I was giving out soccer balls to the kids. I was giving out flags to the village elder. I was giving out leaflets and pamphlets to the children. What we would do is instead of just giving them a piece of paper, we would fold it up into a paper airplane and we would show them how to fold them and make paper airplanes and the kids were fascinated with this because it was something they couldn’t, it was something to play with. They usually had rocks, that’s what the kids played with, they threw rocks at each other. So a paper airplane was a completely incredible invention for them, they absolutely loved that sort of stuff. You know you could make some inroads with the kids. I was given a camera and a video camera and told to record my experiences over there for use for PSYOPS purposes but also to record the battle groups mission. And so I had one of the best jobs because I was taking videos and photo the whole time but it was very much a culture that wanted all of the perks of modern living, all of the benefits of modern civilization but had not come out of what I felt was like the Stone Age.

Mr. McCue shares some experiences of how the Afghan people went about their daily routine, a practice very much like the stone age compared to Canadian lifestyles.

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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