Remembrance Day has special meaning for former Afghan translator

Ghulam Wali Noori

Credits: Carleton University


Among the students who will quietly attend Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada this weekend, Ghulam Wali Noori may not stand out.

And while he is neither a soldier nor the son of a Canadian veteran, the way he cherishes the day may set him apart from his university peers.

Between 2006 and 2009, Noori worked alongside Canadian soldiers as one of their trusted interpreters in Afghanistan.

Out with our troops, his code-name -- to protect his identity -- was Mike. Now 28 years old, he says the bonds he formed with the Canadians in the middle of uncertainty and perilous patrols created a tight bond.

"Your closest family members can't help you (during a firefight)," he said. "We smoked together and walked and fought together. We were a family."

He is now one of an estimated 28 interpreters who have settled in Canada as part of a government program to acknowledge and protect those who risked their lives to help bridge the divide between our troops and the Afghan people.

Their work was extremely dangerous, as interpreters and their families were at risk for retaliation from the Taliban.

In March 2006, Noori was involved in the rollover of an armoured vehicle just outside Kandahar that claimed the lives of two Canadian soldiers.

He now studies political science at Carleton University in Ottawa. He's married and is raising his four children, he says, to appreciate what the small splash of poppy red stands for.

"I will teach them how important these people in uniform are to this country," he said. "Afghanistan didn't have an army, and look how we suffered.

"Canada would suffer as well without our soldiers."

Many of the Canadian troops sent to fight the insurgency -- our nation lost 158 Canadian soldiers and four civilians -- were around his age.

But as he makes his way around the Carleton campus, Noori gets the impression many of Canada's younger generation don't understand the cost of war is constantly recalculated.

"They don't recognize the sacrifices made for their nation," he points out. "That (soldiers) have sacrificed the most important thing they have."

Noori, who has written an unpublished novel based, in part, on what he experienced, is unsure when he'll return to Afghanistan.

He claims two countries now.

"Canada is my body and Afghanistan my spirit," he says.

So on the 11th hour of the 11th day and month, he'll stand silent and remember what it cost to build a bridge between both.

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