Sian LeSueur, Silver cross mother who lost son in Afghanistan anguished by Taliban takeover
“Now I thank all the soldiers, there is nothing the military has done wrong to me in the aftermath of me losing my son. They taught my boy how to clean, how to iron and respect and dignity.” — Sian LeSueur
Author of the article: Sarah Grochowski – Publishing date: Aug 22, 2021 • August 22, 2021
Dressed in black, bereaved mother Sian LeSueur solemnly knelt on the plush red steps of Burnaby’s All Saints Anglican Church Sunday. She closed her eyes in reverence.
Meanwhile, an ocean away, Canadian soldiers are rushing to evacuate 20,000 Afghans from Taliban soil amid the conflict that killed LeSueur’s son, Private Garrett Chidley, 12 years ago.
With the wave of a sword near each of LeSueurs’ shoulders, the Chilliwack resident who has borne the lifelong weight of losing a child, was knighted and bestowed a silver medallion around her neck.
“I’d always had this fear of one of my children dying. When I got that knock on the door my worst fears came true.”
LeSueur and her husband Brad were one of 14 B.C. families honoured Sunday for their children who died during Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. Knight Commander Allan Plett ennobled parents in a ceremony, naming each a Field Knight or Dame in the Order of St. George.
“For me, this honour was for him and always will be,” LeSueur said through a veil of tears. “He would have been 33 this year.”
Garrett, a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was stationed in Kandahar when an improvised explosive device ripped through the light armoured vehicle he drove, killing him, three other soldiers and a Calgary reporter on Dec. 30, 2009.
“The explosion flipped the vehicle on its back,” LeSueurs said. “Garrett died instantly.”
The 21-year-old had been part of a provincial reconstruction team deployed to strengthen civil government, suppress resurgent Taliban forces and build local infrastructure. Of the 40,000 Canadians deployed to Afghanistan since 2001, 155 were killed.
LeSueur said the Taliban’s lightning-speed rise to rule in the country has shocked her.
“I never knew it was going to affect me this way. The grieving process never stops.”
The mother expressed anguish over Afghan citizens being forced from their homes to hide or flee in fear of Taliban persecution.
“I’m heartbroken for the children,” she said. “Because the military was there for years many children, especially girls, were able to leave the country and lead successful lives.”
Since its 2001 military touchdown in Afghanistan, Canada led a successful nation-wide initiative to vaccinate all Afghan children against the scourge of polio and helped clear nearly a third of the estimated 10 to 15 million landmines, among other objectives.
When Garrett joined the military out of high school at age 18, LeSueurs initially disapproved.
“I was worried about him, he had lifelong plans to become a history teacher.”
It wasn’t until she saw the man he was becoming and what he had been learning that LeSueur got on board with his military calling.
“Now I thank all the soldiers, there is nothing the military has done wrong to me in the aftermath of me losing my son. They taught my boy how to clean, how to iron and respect and dignity.”
Canada’s combat role ended in 2011 and the last of its troops, which had stayed behind to help train Afghanistan’s army and police forces, left the country in 2014.
Two military aircraft are currently assisting evacuation efforts out of the country’s capital city, Kabul. Almost 1,000 Afghan refugees have now landed in Canada.