(E) Maj. Andrew Zdunich - his mission a success, but his heart heavy
His mission a success, but his heart heavy
Maj. Andrew ZDUNICH
The 36-year-old grandson of Croatian immigrants returns home to Ottawa later this week
Mon, August 9, 2004
Soldier leaves with heavy heart
Unable to save Afghan girl
KABUL -- Maj. Andrew Zdunich and his armoured reconnaissance troops will never know if they saved a lot of lives during their six-month tour in Afghanistan, but there's one life he didn't save that he'll always remember. On April 5, the commander of the Canadian contingent's reconnaissance squadron spent two frantic hours up to his neck and over his bald head in black sewer water trying to save the life of a three-year-old girl who'd fallen in. He failed.
"The only thing I could think about was holding my little girl," Zdunich said yesterday after returning for the last time to the spot, a six-metre-wide ditch and 15-metre-long culvert filled with oily black sewage and garbage.
"When I left Canada and came overseas, my daughter was the last little girl that I hugged. Then all of a sudden there was this little girl that I had my arms around and she was dead.
"I wanted to have a live girl in my arms again that I could hold that close."
The 36-year-old grandson of Croatian immigrants returns home to Ottawa later this week, his mission a success, but his heart heavy.
Of all the lives lost in this war-torn country, and of all the ones he'll never know he saved, there was one he knows he couldn't save.
"I don't want to think about how long she was in that water before I got there," he said.
Zdunich's 150-member unit from 12 Regiment Blinde du Canada in Quebec are trickling home.
A larger reconnaissance squadron from Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) in Alberta has begun the transition process, after which they'll take over operations across Kabul and beyond.
Yesterday, Zdunich took some of his replacements on a foot patrol through one of his areas of responsibility, walking 8 km in sweltering heat and overwhelming stench along alleys, past cemeteries and through village markets.
When it was over, Zdunich took his Coyote armoured vehicle on a detour, returning to the sewage ditch where witnesses summoned him to save the little girl.
At least Zdunich returns to Canada knowing his squadron went where they wanted to go, when they wanted to go without enemy resistance, and his troops got through their tour without casualties.
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