Vale Peter Miller

Sad to receive news this morning that a long time friend and colleague, Peter Miller, had passed.

Peter Miller

“After fighting cancer for many years, finally lost”. No, not lost; if there was ever anyone who fought the battle of life and won it was be Peter. Even knowing he was at his last days he was unbowed. Visiting him last week he proudly showed us the woodworking plans and cut lists for some cabinets he was making for his wife MT. He had created the diagrams himself, writing C++ code to call manually drive a drawing library, outputting postscript. Let’s see you do architectural drawing without a CAD program. The date on the printout was two weeks ago.

“The world is a less interesting place today,” wrote another friend. No. Peter firmly believed that interest comes from within. The world is there to be explored, I can hear him saying. He taught us to go forth, wonder, and understand. And so we should.


Taking much for granted

“At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, one minute of silence will be observed to mark the signing of the Armistice and to remember all those who fell in the cause of their nations.”

In one of the better texts documenting the South Atlantic war, I found this letter from an officer of 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, writing home to his wife:

“It shouldn’t be too long, and I promise you I shan’t take needless risks. I think of you all so much and I love you all so dearly. Darling, I know what it must be like, always waiting for news and being so much at the mercy of events, but I know that you have the courage and the character to win through the difficult time and keep the family together. I so long to be back with you and I shall value our life together as never before after this. One takes so much for granted…”

— as quoted by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins in Battle for the Falklands (Norton, 1983) pg 288.

While we remember, pause a moment to think too on all those who came home, of those who waited, and of those who wait still.

11:00 hrs
11 November 2007

Valentine’s day isn’t for everyone

One of my former NCOs was killed in Afghanistan not too long ago. Bobby Girouard, the Regimental Sargent Major of 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, was one of the casualties when the armoured vehicles of the CO’s tactical command post were attacked by the enemy.

CWO Bobby Girouard

I remember Bobby Girouard as one of the most unflappable men I have ever met. We were in J Company, 2 RCR, together, I a newly commissioned officer commanding a platoon, he the company quartermaster. He always had a smile in his eyes, even when he was frowning at you (and given that I was a young subaltern, that was quite a bit, of course!). Others always told me that my time in command of a Platoon would be some of the best years of my life, and Warrant Officer Girouard (as he was then) was a big part of the reason why that was certainly true for me. As is the grand tradition in the British regimental system, the NCOs are more than just the backbone of the army — they are the ones who teach and grow their new young officers into seasoned commanders. It is no surprise to me that he was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. I was privileged to know him.

As Valentine’s day approaches and we are all inundated with thoughts of love, passion, and chocolate, it’s easy to forget that there are many who have lost loved ones and for whom this day must be the purest form of torture. My condolences to Jackie at what must, I’m sure, be an insane time. He will be missed.


Towards the Armistice

“At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, one minute of silence will be observed to mark the signing of the Armistice and to remember all those who fell in the cause of their nations.”

Each year on Remembrance Day, I recall two things.

At Fountain’s Abbey in North Yorkshire, England, there is a stately manor, but no one lives there any more. The two children of the house, a son and a daughter, were both killed in battle during World War II.

Neither had reached their 20th birthday.

There is a beautiful stained glass window memorial in the entrance way which reads:

They gave of their tomorrow so you could live your today.

The second is a poem that seems to say what a veteran needs to say:

If you are able
save for them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can no longer go
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam

— at the closing of Hamburger Hill

In the service of peace and freedom. Amen.

11:00 hrs
11 November 2006