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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Calgary War Exhibit and are we doing anything in Afghan?

The Afghan exhibit and some of the artifacts from my collection

Before 2001 no girls were being educated now there are about 2 million

People ask for proof that we are doing well and in that regard the government has not sold the mission as one would hope....

Some facts;
Afghan population 29 802 724
Afghan refugees outside the country
1988  3 million (in Pakistan)
2001   7.5 million (5 million Pakistan 2.5 million Iran)
2009   1.7 million  (in Pakistan)

Afghan GDP
1990  $3 billion
2000  $ 2.5 billion
2001  $ 2.4 billion
2003  $ 4.8 billion
2005  $ 6.8 billion
2008  $ 11.8 billion
2010 $ 29 billion

Life expectancy
1980  39 years
2001  42 years
2005  43 years
2008  44 years

2003 4.2 million
2006 4.5 million

2009 the Taliban destroyed over 150 schools

"Afghanistan has made progress towards eradication with 316 out of 326 districts polio free." (UNICEF)
Documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, left, and journalist Stephen Thorne open the exhibit.

Documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, left, and journalist Stephen Thorne open the exhibit.

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

It's ironic, but the first time I met Calgary documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, I was halfway around the world in Afghanistan.

I was at an internally displaced persons camp with Canadian soldiers just outside of Kabul in December 2003 when I had just reached out to touch the bare feet of an 11-month-old child being held by her sister, who was maybe nine or 10-years-old.

My feet were growing numb from the cold and I was wearing ski socks and rubber-soled boots. I crouched down and grasped the little girl's frozen but clean little feet in my hands in an attempt to warm them up when Pritchard said: "Be careful. Don't leave your heart here."
It is a warning Pritchard clearly never heeded himself. Tuesday at the official launch of a new exhibit at The Military Museums called Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War, Pritchard, who has been to Afghanistan six times since the war started in 2002, admits that Afghanistan and its hospitable people, have a hold on a huge part of his heart. So too do our brave soldiers who have given so much to make the lives of Afghans much better than they were before the war began.

It's Pritchard's hope that the hearts of many more Canadians will be touched by the exhibit on loan from the Canadian War Museum, that displays some of Pritchard's often wrenching film footage and the photos of reporter and photo journalist, Stephen Thorne.
Judging from the tears in the eyes of some of the journalists who got a sneak peak before Tuesday night's official opening, it seems impossible that those who take in this show will not be deeply touched in some way.

Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, said Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War broke all attendance records at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa in 2007-08 for a temporary exhibit and then did the same in St. John's Newfoundland.
The exhibit starts where the war in Afghanistan began, the downing of the twin towers in New York City by Islamist fanatics who did much of their training in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Along with a piece of one of the civilian aircraft used as a weapon of war on that terrible day, are the front pages of newspapers, editorial cartoons and quotes from then Canadian politicians, including then Prime Minister Jean Chretien that showed the resolve of Canadians to shut down al-Qaeda's haven in Afghanistan.

Jenna the Hula girl from my truck with burnt grass skirt and broken ukalale
As you move through the exhibit there are photos, artifacts and film footage that starts with the early days of the war hunting for arch enemy Osama bin Laden and the green camouflage of our poorly equipped Canadian soldiers, moving through to current days of sand-coloured camouflage, much better equipment, 154 dead Canadian soldiers and many, many more gravely injured.
My helmet with my signal flag with blood and a dent in the top as  I skipped across the ground

Interspersed with the photos, stories and artifacts are screens with Pritchard's video and I challenge anyone to watch one called Aid and Comfort without shedding tears. The film shows a little Afghan boy who had sustained second-hand third-degree burns to more than 35 per cent of his body in a kerosene fire at his home near Kandahar in September 2005.

The parents sought the help of our soldiers and medics who did what they could for the boy.

In the video, Warrant Officer Shawn Best treats the boy's gruesome wounds as the boy wails.

Pritchard says at one point the boy was asked if there was anything he would like. The only thing that little boy asked for was a pen, and in the footage, you can see him clutching it in his tiny fist.

The footage also shows the boy's father weeping and Sgt. Major Billy Bolen, nicknamed Smiley, looking utterly heartbroken. He asks the interpreter to tell the boy that he will bring him a soccer ball when he gets better. Unfortunately, the boy died the next day still holding onto his prized pen. As for Major Bolen, he returned to the family shortly afterward to deliver the boy's soccer ball.
The display features many stories like that. All 160 hours of the footage Pritchard has shot over the years, received not one dime from the organizations, like Telefilm Canada, that are supposed to help Canadians tell Canadian stories.
"Nancy Southern (the President and CEO of ATCO Ltd.) came to me 12 years ago now and the only thing she said was, 'go and tell our soldiers' stories,'" said Pritchard. "So, everything you see in here video-wise is because one person was willing to back me when no one else would," added Pritchard.
Book from a journal I wrote in 2006 and tells the part where I knew I was going to die

Major Mark Campbell, 46, who lost both of his legs above the knee on June 2, 2008 while mentoring members of the Afghan National Army, said he thinks the exhibit will help Canadians recognize the good work and the great cost of Canada's mission. "You don't get more (screwed) up than me and live to tell the tale," he says.

So has the immense cost and sacrifice been worth it?

"Hell yeah," Campbell says. "We've made a huge difference over there."
Pritchard nods and later says, "He didn't just leave his legs over there, like the rest of us, he left a piece of his heart."


Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Corbella+Afghan+exhibit+opening+Calgary+will+steal+your+heart/4408081/story.html#ixzz1GDaHvXVJ

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