Boneca Worthington


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Let him rest in peace

Anthony Boneca knew the risks of combat in Afghanistan -- he was on his second tour

Peter Worthington, Toronto Sun, 23 Jul 06


It was a former sergeant with the famed 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion in WWI who wondered if a great disservice hadn't been done to Cpl. Anthony Boneca, the 17th soldier killed in action in Afghanistan.


Ronald (Andy) Anderson, a retired Toronto cop, feels the media has misrepresented this solider by stressing that he "bitched and griped about his military service."


Andy expected this of the Toronto Star, but was disappointed that the Sun also uncritically repeated grumblings that Boneca had apparently written to his girlfriend. He was disappointed too, that as a former soldier, I hadn't reacted.


"It is the 'nature of the beast' for all soldiers to gripe and whine about their duties, and officers of any regiment are easy targets," he wrote me. "But when duty calls, it is the pride of the regiment that draws all soldiers together."


While we'll never know what went on in Cpl. Boneca's mind, the fact that he was a reservist on his second tour of Afghanistan, speaks volumes.


For his prospective father-in-law to sound off to the media that Boneca was "disillusioned ... wasn't ready for this kind of thing," and that he had insufficient training for combat, maligns the reputation and legacy of one whom his comrades, his officers and his own father felt was a fine soldier.


His dad, Antonio, sought to refute that his son was a disgruntled and fearful soldier. He said his son "knew what he was getting into" and that "he loved the army." This makes more sense since, after all, he'd joined the reserves (the Lake Superior Regiment four years ago) and was trained at home and in the field.


Yes, duty and patrols in Kabul were different than fighting patrols in Kandahar, but every Canadian soldier in Afghanistan knows the risks, knows his job and is there by choice. Morale is high, because the calibre of soldier is high and they know what they are doing.


As an aside, the weaponry and equipment that the girlfriend's father so deplores, is better and more plentiful than Canadian soldiers are accustomed to. And it's slated to get better under the Harper government.


It taxes credulity to suppose soldiers don't know what they're facing in Afghanistan. It's why some enlisted. Before we had more than an advance guard in Kandahar, Gen. Rick Hillier was warning that this was no peacekeeping mission; that our troops faced a resourceful enemy, and casualties were inevitable. How can that be interpreted as being "misled."


The presence of the Governor-General, the Defence Minister and Chief of Defence Staff at Trenton when Boneca's body came home is testimony to his value.


He died for his country, and it shames him to be depicted as a whiner who wanted out. And no blame on his girlfriend, Megan DeCorte, if he bellyached in letters to her. As Andy Anderson has pointed out, all soldiers do that.


As if to endorse the disillusion supposedly felt by Cpl. Boneca, the media noted that AWL cases (absent without leave) have doubled in the military since 9/11. Reports imply that this is akin to desertion. This is bizarre. Overstaying a leave, going on a bender, absent to see a girlfriend, missing a train, whatever, is not "desertion" but AWL (AWOL is the American term).


Minor offence


"Deserters" are what a bunch of Americans now in Canada are -- they volunteered for the military and ran away when orders came for Iraq or Afghanistan. To some, that might seem like cowardice, even if it's called "conscientious objecting."


Desertion should not be confused with draft dodging, as in the Vietnam war. And it most certainly isn't AWL, a relatively minor offence punished by a reduction in rank, confinement to barracks, a token fine, even a warning.


Heck, AWL is what Sasha Trudeau was when he was in the reserves and missing from Camp Gagetown for a lively weekend in Quebec City.


So let Cpl. Tony Boneca RIP as the soldier he wanted to be, and as the soldier he was.