Last updated: 5thJune, 2015

The 4 Explanatory pages (Expl. Pg.) add depth & Context to this Tribute 

 

"The Shepherd" 


Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard  

Award: MSM (Meritorious Service medal)
Age: 26, Born 2nd May, 1980 Madang Province, Papua New Guinea
Home Town: Calgary, Alberta Canada
Unit: 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (Shilo, Manitoba)
Killed in Action: 17th May, 2006
Incident: Ground offensive, Panjwaye District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

 

This tribute to the late Captain Nichola Goddard originated from a letter written to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in April 2009. It was written in response to a letter read on the CBC from Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry in a letter to his wife. (Expl. Pg #1.) The time was 14th July 1861 just before his death at the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) during the American Civil War. This Tribute is in good company along the same vein and includes excerpts from some of Capt. Goddard’s letters home as she eloquently articulates the importance of our mission and standing up for others until they can stand up for themselves. This, as we all slowly but relentlessly work towards a time in Afghanistan for the first time in 30 + years when people’s differences are not settled from the barrel of a gun. This is not unlike the reasons we persisted in our involvement in the former Yugoslavia when some thought it was a lost cause and we should just let "those people" slaughter each other. (Expl. Pg # 2.)

 

 . ...     ........."I listened with interest to your program on Tuesday morning on the way back to the office and I was touched by the letter that you read from a Union American Civil War officer who was killed at the battle for Bull Run in the letter to his wife, just before that battle. It takes a very special person to dig deep down within themselves and come up with that selfless dedication to duty and that incredible willingness to sacrifice for a fundamental cause larger than themselves. It is people like this that help to make the world a better place.

 

I would also like to share the following with you written by Captain Nichola Goddard in her letters back to her family before she was killed in a firefight while commanding her LAV III on the 17th May, 2006 in the Panjwayi District at the age of 26. What I found so very special about her was not that she was a woman, nor that she was the first Canadian woman killed in combat in Afghanistan, but rather the vision of a mission that she exemplified. It was her genuine leadership and vision of why she was so willing to put everything on the line for what she believed in. In doing this, she articulated so beautifully our purpose, our mission, and our cause in Afghanistan that even some of our own political leadership seems to be stumbling around in the dark sometimes trying to define. If anyone truly is at a loss as to why we are in Afghanistan and why we have no choice but to persevere, they only need to read her words, which are as follows:

I don’t want you to feel that I am depressed or defeated. Far from it. The longer that we are in theatre and the more that we actually interact with the Afghan people, the more I feel that we are serving a purpose here. I think that these people, through the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, are trying to achieve something that we in Canada have long since taken for granted. They lay down their lives daily to try to seize something that is so idealistic it is almost impossible to define. (Expl. Pg.#3) It goes beyond women wearing burkas and children being taught to read and write. The Afghan people have chosen who will lead them. Their new government is striving to make Afghanistan a better place. I had never truly appreciated the awesome power of a democratic government before. We are here to assist that legitimate and democratically elected government. It is easy to poke holes in that statement and say that the system is corrupt and that violence and poverty make people easy targets for our own agendas. Those statements are true; however, we have to start somewhere. With the best of intentions, we have started in Afghanistan. There is nowhere else that I’d rather be right now.

I keep thinking about my grandparents, and what they must have gone through in World War I and II. This is nothing compared to that. I have an end-date. I know that I’ll be home sometime in August. I have the ability to come back to a warm tent and call home to hear my Mum’s voice. I have the ability to check e-mail and send a message instantly. I am so proud of all of the veterans that I know, but especially both of my grandfathers and grandmothers. I am in such good company in uniform. It truly is an honour to be wearing a uniform overseas.

I first saw this in print on a book review early in 2008 in the Ottawa Citizen and the book was entitled Outside the Wire edited by Kevin Patterson and Jane Warren as the letters to home from the participants, including Captain Goddard who was originally published in the Calgary Herald. Rarely has the painfully overused word "awesome" been used so very well.

 

Really, the vision and true leadership that Captain Goddard articulated so well needs to be the basic foundation of Canada’s foreign policy in Afghanistan".

Yours sincerely,

Caina - Longbranch Defence Systems (Canada) Limited

P.S. And on the lighter side of things....

"I am in a small tent right now with nine other officers. There is about a foot between our cots, so it is pretty tight. This morning, I put my lock inside my combat boot. Then, I picked up my boots and yelled out "Scorpion check" as I tipped my boot upside down beside my buddy’s cot. There was a big ‘thump" as the lock fell out. My buddy, Howard Han for those Shilo folk, shot out of bed like he’d been shot. It was pretty good. The good news is that I no longer need to worry about being the first one to scream like a little girl."

For those who are interested in learning more about Capt Goddard we include a link to her legacy website set up in her memory. We also recommend the following additional books: Sunray by Valerie Fortney, Contact Charlie by Chris Wattie, and for overall information on the Afghan Mission about what works, what doesn’t work, and how we have made it work, we recommend the excellent Kandahar Tour by the "Consumate Afghan Mission Mechanic", Dr. Lee Windsor. Another title worth reading for people in pre-deployment and going through the sometimes traumatic events of battle, we recommend On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman(Third Edition). This book is extremely well regarded in helping people prepare for the intense heat of battle and in being better prepared  for the emotional toll by understanding in some way what one goes through. In doing that it may also help some to better deal with the effects of battle "after the fact" and lessen the possible effects of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder - a "wound" like any other when flesh & blood comes face to face with merciless steel & high explosive       and nothing at all to be ashamed of). We hope these books prove both informative and helpful. 

 

The inspiration for the title behind this tribute, "The Shepherd", comes from one of Frederick Forsyth's short stories that has been played on the CBC Radio since 1979 as a Christmas Eve tradition by the late Alan Maitland. It is about an RAF pilot, flying home from Germany in his jet fighter, at night on Christmas Eve in 1957 when he becomes lost and in trouble over the North Sea. You may listen to the half hour story online, free of charge, by going to the CBC Radio Link or purchase a CD from the CBC shop if you wish. It also exemplifies the USAF motto that General Norman Schwartz articulated so well in 2009 to describe the belief in their mission, their selfless dedication to duty and to their fellow comrades of these soldiers, sailors and airmen and women to some of the highest professional standards. The USAF motto is simply: "Send Me". The Motto used by the United States Marine Corps and others also articulates so beautifully the extremely high professional standards, not only for one’s fellow soldier, but especially in standing up for others until they can stand up for themselves as a way of life for us all to aspire to: "Semper Fidelis" - "Always Faithful"

 

These mottos were not just spoken but well exemplified and articulated by the late Corporal Andrew James Ekelenboom ("Boomer"), a Canadian dismounted infantry medic (1st Field ambulance unit) who was killed in action 11th August 2006 by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan at the age of 23. His tour was finished and he was packing up to come home, but that day they were short two medics and he volunteered for one more mission, his last. The month before his unit was involved intense combat which might have most of us question why we are there and cause most anyone to say to themselves: "There but for the grace of God, go I" (or Allah in the case Afghans and others alike, quite interchangeably) . This came out in a telephone conversation with his mother, but at the same time it also came out the people that may not have survived if he was not a medic in the "heat of battle" and the difference he made in the lives and survival of others, both Canadian and Afghan alike. One thing led to another as Andrew dug down deep within himself only to reaffirm his resolve and belief in his role in the mission when he said: "but Mom, if not us then who, who is going to help these people?" Yet, another truly incredible young man from a great generation who deserves an enormous amount of respect and as a timeless, enduring example to us all to aspire to and and strive for. These people not only volunteer to go forward willingly, but even passionately.

 

As Capt Goddard said to her father who was involved with his wife in educational programs in developing counties and in Canada’s north " I do what I do, so that you can do what you do" because she clearly understood, that military action in this case is not the "main event", but only a necessary "means to an end" to achieve stability, allowing all else to flourish. In the words of the late G.K. Chesterton:

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."       Simply put: "Send me".  

In the words of the late G.K. Chesterton: "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." 

In a way,it is not unlike what we are all trying to accomplish in finding our way through this complex mission with many great challenges and complexities. Do we finally finish the mission that we started or do we just "tune out", put on our headsets, grab another beer and flip the channel once again so we can avoid watching Afghans as they inconveniently die in front of our TV screens? So, what sort of people are we anyway? What do we stand for, if anything? It is how we meet these challenges, also guided by our conscience, that help to define who we are as a country and as a people guided by our conscience, as the foundation of what is truly important in life. (Expl. Pg. # 4) With our sometimes hyper consumptive "me, me, me"societies in which we get so wrapped up in ourselves, this mission and seeing it through is beginning to remind us of the horse in the movie "Sea Biscuit". At this point, it is unclear if we are working to save the future of Afghans and Afghanistan, or if by our continued participation we are actually helping in a way to save ourselves. At the end of the day, we believe that we are naturally suited and instinctively up to this task if we can focus our efforts and persevere. For those who still are unsure if this mission may be a "bridge too far", Capt. Goddard again had something to say about this, when she quoted from the late President Theodore Roosevelt in the "Man in the Arena" speech in Paris in 1910. This quotation below well exemplifies Nichola Goddard’s well earned title "The Shepherd", passionately driven by her own beliefs as a way to inspire others to be better that they believe they can be; and to accomplish achievable goals, sometimes at the very edge of possibility:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat".