My name is Peter Burcew and I recently turned twenty nine years-old. I was born on April 3rd 1983 in a small town in Poland named Zielona Gora. At a young age, I lived in Poland and also in St-Petersburg, Russia (at that time Leningrad), my fathers hometown. At the age of four, we moved to Austria, where my dad was following a group of artist painters touring Western Europe. We finally arrived in Montreal in late October 1989 during a critical period of tension between Poles and Russians due to the eminent collapse of communism.
Canada meant a whole new set of challenges for me, starting with two new languages to learn. Luckily, at such a young age, learning French and English seemed rather natural and within a year I integrated a French elementary school in 2nd grade. Soon after, I developed a passion for hockey that I continued to cherish in High school in a sport/study program where I could play hockey every afternoon. When I realized that my dream of playing in the NHL would not come true, I pursued my studies at Dawson College in Social Sciences and at McGill University in Political Sciences.
My military career started a few months before 9/11, when I was in college. Being a very active young man and always eager for some challenge, I discussed with a friend of mine who was an infantry reservist, the opportunity of joining the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve. After a few hours, I was convinced that it was a perfect job for a young energetic student like me. I joined the Régiment de Maisonneuve on June 29th 2001. After completing all required courses, I had the chance to go on my first mission in 2004. It was a rather unexciting mission where my platoon was responsible for the defense and security of an airfield. In August 2006, I had the chance to go on a second mission, but this time as a member of a tactical psychological operations team. It was very different from the monotonous job previously experienced and also in an entirely different environment. Like most young soldiers, I was thrilled by the idea of being in a real war zone and like those same soldiers I did not fully understand the risks surrounding such a thrill.
On October 3rd 2006, the risk associated to the excitement became very real when my officer and I got hit by a suicide bomber during a convoy heading back to base. After the initial adrenaline rush and completion of tasks essential to the mission, I realized that I was burned on my left arm. I had to recover for one month before I could rejoin my team and continue my mission. In 2008, three of my colleagues and I received the Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada for our actions. We had saved the lives of fellow soldiers and local Afghan civilians by unloading ammunition from my disabled burning vehicle. Despite having to cross through flames, we repeatedly returned to the vehicle to retrieve mission-essential cargo and high-explosive ammunition that posed a deadly threat to those nearby. We moved away from the scene just moments before the fire raged out of control, detonating the remaining rounds.In 2010, I participated in my third mission in Haiti. This time there was no threat to my life, nonetheless, my colleagues and I were facing a very difficult situation. People lost members of their families, homes and all belongings and were being forced to live on the street. In 2011, five years after my first tour, I returned to Afghanistan and was glad to notice that the efforts were not made in vain.
I am participating in this expedition to the Himalayas in honor of our fallen comrades and injured soldiers I want to bring them on that journey through my heart and soul.
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