Mark Isfeld Oct 92
Camp Polom Croatia
Last year, while I was still in Kuwait, my wife Kelly and I finalized plans
for our marriage. At first she insisted we have a summer wedding. I explained to
her that a Christmas wedding would be better for us. Since her birthday is Dec
27, that would practically ensure I would always be home for our anniversary.
This year our first anniversary will be shared together only because my warrant
officer insisted my leave time be changed. I will come back to Croatia on my
wife's birthday. We will share our first anniversary and Christmas together. Two
out of three ain't bad!
From my eyes Croatia is a terrible scar on a once beautiful face. I have seen
churches possibly 500 years old in ruins. A monastery with breathtaking
architecture; fruit trees and grape vines fill a courtyard where human voices
are gone. I can almost imagine priests gathering grapes to make wine for their
communion. The church has a tall steeple with a stunning mosaic on the front. A
clock hangs from the other side, but time has stopped for this ancient, sacred
place of worship.
Devils of war have made this treasure of history a worthless eyesore.
My heart was torn from my chest today. I saw a helpless old lady on the porch
of an apartment. She was the only resident. People with larger interests than
the life of a pathetic old woman stormed through her town and tore her life
away. They ruined all her possessions, forcing her to scrounge for utensils. I
wonder if she will survive the winter?
One day, I can't help but wonder: Where are all the people? There is a
strange emptiness; peoples hours of labour, all their skill and love that went
into building homes; Some have been handed down through countless generations.
They lie in ruined piles of brick and stucco. What a pain it must be to flee
from your home, to flee from bloodthirsty strangers and stand beside a pile of
Often, as we travel through the countryside, people shake their fist or give
us a well placed centre finger. At first I was a little bitter, this was not the
reaction I am used to or expected.
While in Kuwait I got a little tired of shaking hands and waving to the
civilians. In Kuwait people understood that we were there to help and protect
In Croatia, where no one trusts soldiers of any sort, they see us as some
sort of trouble, but I will keep on doing my duty of protecting nations that
wish for peace. I will risk my life daily using the special skills I have been
given by my country to help keep civilians and UN soldiers safe in travel and
At the moment I am travelling from infantry checkpoint to checkpoint and
teaching private soldier and officer alike about the mines (anti-personnel and
anti-tank), unexploded ordnance, and booby traps, that are still too frequent.
We stress that one engineer has died, a well trained man. As well, one Cpl
infantryman who stepped outside an area that was clear lost his foot.
I feel proud as a Canadian, and proud to be part of the Canadian Engineer
Corps, without a doubt the worlds best trained and respected. My only regret is
I am not with my regiment. I feel like an adopted son who doesn't get the love
and respect the adoptive parents should give.
[Mark's regiment at the time was stationed in Daruvar and his section was
attached to the infantry]
I feel compelled to say that the support of the loved ones and wives who miss
us all so much is unparalleled. It takes a special person to weather the storm
alone at home while their husbands are worlds away and in dangerous situations
constantly. While we may laugh at being shot at or finding mines, our loved ones
get sick from 6 months of constant worry. I love my wife, but I am very
confident in my knowledge and ability to keep myself from danger. I understand
this. How can she? She cannot understand why I would want to touch a bomb that
is set to go off with very little pressure, or that may have a booby trap on it.
The only answer I can give is, I know what this stuff can do. Civilians, small
children don't. My skills are to protect them.
Engineers think of how many lives they are saving, not of the one they