For me, the wonderful thing about the LHP series is that it tells the stories of people -ordinary, sometime extraordinary, occasionally flawed (aren't we all?) people. And it shows - corny as it may sound - how individuals can truly make a difference in this world. The unfortunate thing is due to the fact that most of these characters are either dead or in jail, I rarely got to actually meet them.
Former US soldier Ethan McCord was an exception. A few years ago, if you spent time with a guy like Ethan you might be inclined to call him a redneck - not to his face of course - that would be insulting, not to mention risky. Here's a man who openly admits that he thought "all Muslims should die" and he wanted to go to Iraq to "shoot Muslims in the face." This was back in the aftermath of 9-11 when most people on the planet I'd imagine were in some form of shock.
But Ethan did enlist in the US Navy. He eventually transferred to the Infantry and was deployed to Iraq. On Thursday 12 July, 2007 all the propaganda that had nurtured his beliefs, the Hollywood notion of Americans being the good guys, the fighting for freedom standard pitch line - it all came crashing down. Ethan happened upon a van that had been decimated by thirty millimetre rounds fired from an American Apache helicopter. Inside were a father and his two children left for dead ...
Fast forward five years and I'm sitting in Ethan's back garden. I watch the monitor as producer Maria Knight interviews Ethan. He's probably told his story a hundred times. Obviously it doesn't get any easier for him. You can see tiny twitches as he re-lives a horror nobody should ever have to witness. When the interview is finished DOP Mike Sweeney films Ethan playing with his dog Boxie. Clearly there's a loving bond between man and dog. It's the first time I see Ethan smiling - there's even a sparkle in his eyes. After getting some still photos it's time for us to leave - a good day for sure. Ethan gave us what we came for. We have a powerful story to share with Canadians. And if one viewer stops to think for a moment about the futility of war then it was worth the trip to Wichita.
But what about Ethan? What about this young man who volunteered to fight for his country because he believed what he was told, went to camp to be trained as a killing machine, sent to a distant place to witness and participate in unspeakable acts of violence then return home and is expected to get back to normal - whatever that is. What do you do when so many of your brothers-in-arms have died - not at the hands of the enemy but by their own hands? What do you do when troops you served with threaten to kill you for daring to speak the truth? Over time, Ethan's physical wounds may heal - the emotional scars are there forever ...
How did Ethan make a difference in this world? Well, anyone who has heard his story cannot help but be moved - one way or the other. And he'll continue to tell it to anyone who'll listen. As for those children in the van, they are alive and well thanks to Ethan McCord - a young man who stopped and took the time to ask himself, "what the fuck are we doing, these are babies?"
Photo Credit: CBC
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