On Thursday, November 26, Canadian veteran soldier Rafiele Gardezy, brother of senior student Desirée MacIntosh, came to campus to speak to students in AP English and History classes about his experiences during his two tours in Afghanistan.
Rafiele addressed many topics during his presentation including military training, tactics and intelligence operations. He also spoke movingly about his personal experiences and his thoughts on foreign military intervention.
During his first tour, Rafiele was stationed near Kandahar as an infantry soldier. During the last week of this tour, he found himself embroiled in a Taliban ambush, during which he was injured while helping to rescue fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle.
After returning home to Canada for a short interval, Rafiele volunteered to return to Afghanistan, this time in the role of interpreter and liaison solider, helping to protect Canadians working with Afghani communities and to facilitate communication between soldiers and Afghani citizens.
Rafiele spoke eloquently and with great honesty about his experiences, and he openly welcomed questions and discussion. He gave three sessions, one each to Mrs. McCachen’s AP Language and Composition class, Mr. Maxwell’s law students, and Mrs. Baird’s and Mr. Goodman’s comparative government and history classes.
The following are three students’ responses to this powerful and moving presentation:
By Doreen Wang
Having the opportunity to listen to a true experience of someone who was at war was truly an eyeopener. I have heard and read many war stories, but nothing can compare to hearing from a primary source. At age 17, Rafiele joined the cadets; he knew he wanted to be a soldier. His courage and determination to follow his dream from a young age inspired me. Many of us right now are still very unclear about our futures as we hit application deadlines. I was so impressed with his dedication of years of training to prove himself so he could volunteer to fight.
What shocked me the most was the state of the kids in Afghanistan. It is sad to think about how when these kids were born, the country was already at war. Instead of drawing butterflies or unicorns like my sisters did, they drew images of war–guns and tanks. Growing up, they never played with toys. The magical moment when a boy sees his first toy train at the age of six is really sad to imagine for us. Childhood in war-torn Afghanistan is so different from how we grew up.
The real difference is that their parents do not treat them as preciously as our parents do. To their parents, it is fortunate enough for their kids to live to the age of three. They are not even given a name until they have lived to a certain age.
By Sun Eui Choi
This talk was one of the most honest, eye-opening presentations that I have ever listened to. Rafiele spoke about the past, present, and future, giving us insight about the different effects war has on us all. For example, he described the current problem of “misinformation” through media. He also said that we are the future and we are “still writing history.”
Rafiele told us many war stories, one of which about how his platoon was ambushed. This ambush was unusual, as the enemy side was using heavy weapons and many of the foot soldiers had been trained for combat, compared to the usual groups of men enlisted from villages with little to no training. Rafiele turned to his right and saw his friend’s armoured war vehicle disintegrate, then he went to help the injured. His face burning from the intense heat, Rafiele had to decide who to save and who to leave behind; there would not be enough time to save them all before the heat took the bodies.
This story gave me a better understanding of the moral conflicts war brings, as well as the weird sense of justice in war; it is the only situation where you can kill someone even if you are not in danger without punishment. However, even if this killing is “justified”, it goes against our moral conscience, and once it is done you lose your innocence and can never get it back. By sending these young men to war, we are stripping them of their innocence, and for that we owe them endless gratitude.
By Artie Kagramanien
To me, Rafiele is a very captivating motivational speaker. I found that his two presentations were very different, and I am extremely thankful that I attended both of them. His presentation was like reading a book, or watching a movie. It was a story being told, one that is almost fiction-like (but is obviously very true).
Before even coming to the class, Rafiele had a high degree of ethos, being a professional soldier. He started the presentation by explaining his life in the military, which I could relate to coming from a military school. This was a great way to begin the presentation because it got obvious questions out of the way.
Once Rafiele began portraying a specific and particularly riveting experience to the class, there was a definite shift in tone. His speech became slightly more emotional, without losing stability. When he was telling the story, it was captivating and seemed very “real” to me. Mainly, this was caused by his use of intense imagery during the presentation. He also drew a map on the board which helped me to visualize the situation. It seems to me that his story followed the basic guidelines for a novel or a piece of literature. It began very calmly, then an inciting incident occurred, followed by rising action, to climax, to resolution.
Personally, this story motivated me greatly. I want to join the military myself and this presentation captured the essence of war immaculately. Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I necessarily want to experience such an event, but there’s something about it that attracts me. Of course, I’m an 18 year old sheltered by private school with every accommodation I could want, and who knows how I would react in the field? It was a true honour to hear Rafiele speak and I am lucky to have heard such an enticing presentation.
This story appeared in the December issue of The Jag student newspaper. Click here to read the full edition.