Retired naval lieutenant collecting Afghanistan anecdotes
Melanie Graham has a grand ambition to share the stories of Canadian men and women — civilian and military — who served on the ground in Afghanistan.
© Justin Crann
Lt. (retired) Melanie Graham (centre-left) discusses her "legacy project" book Afghanistan: A Soldier's Story following the screening of four films at the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw Tuesday.
For what she calls a "legacy project" — a book titled Afghanistan: A Soldier's Story — Graham is traveling across the country and showcasing films on the conflict in an attempt to generate interest and draw contributions from Canada's community of veterans.
"The book is vitally important," Graham, a retired naval lieutenant, told the Times-Herald Tuesday. "I look at it as a boots-on-the-ground perspective … I want Canadians to know our military the way that I do, as ordinary people doing an extraordinary job."
Graham's travels with the film series, which includes a number of documentaries on the war, have come at her own expense — an expense she said she happily bears to promote Canada's military, which she calls the country's "best-kept secrets."
"I believe one person can make a difference, and so this is my way of quietly making that difference," she said. "I'm just sharing with Canadians a glimpse of the remarkable men and women who are very ordinary people, but are setting aside their lives to do something extraordinary on a regular basis, no questions asked."
Capt. Susan Magill, who serves as public affairs officer at 15 Wing Moose Jaw and is assisting Graham on the project as an editor, said the book will be about "personal memories."
"It isn't an official DND (Department of National Defence) book. It's going to be about what people experienced when they were over there," she said. "It's the things they brought home with them that will always stay with them. This is a way to share it with anyone who walks into a Chapters and decides to pick up the book."
Ultimately, said Graham, the goal is to give Canadians a tangible way to evaluate the Afghan War.
"Most people still think in terms of 19th and 20th Century warfare: who won or who lost. We won't now who won in Afghanistan for decades," she explained. "I believe the influence and the impact our men and women — the military, police, corrections, civilians and media —have had on ordinary Afghan people, in giving them the confidence and empowering them to make a difference in their own country, will take decades to come to fruition.
"To think that just one person can make a difference, and we've had 35,000 over there over 12 years? I think we've made a pretty significant difference. It just won't show for a while."
For more information about the Afghanistan: A Soldier's Story legacy project, or to submit a story for the project, visit the project's website.