St. Mary's brothers return home from Afghanistan duty
After eight months on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, brother Neil and Dion Gibbons of St. Mary's have arrived home for a tearful reunion with their mother.
"It's been a long time. I know she was wishing for us to get back home," said Dion Gibbons.
The Gibbons brothers were reservists with the Canadian military's 37th Combat Engineering Regiment, and they were helping train Afghan forces to manage their own country's security when NATO forces pull out in 2014.
The two men were also the last people from Newfoundland and Labrador to serve with that regiment.
Brothers posted separately
Even though the brothers were both serving with the Canadian military in Afghanistan, they barely saw each other during their eight-month missions.
Neil Gibbons was stationed in southwest Kabul, then in central Kabul, where he spent part of his tour transporting high-ranking military officials across the city.
"Traffic is really bad," said Neil Gibbons of Kabul. "Really crowded as well. Sometimes you're stuck in traffic for 45 minutes to go a kilometre."
"You're vulnerable everywhere. Anything could happen at any time."
He also spent some time getting to know some Kabul residents and building relationships between them and the Canadian military.
"They'll offer you chai and sweet candy and you just gotta drink it. You might get sick later but just keep drink it, drink it," said Neil Gibbons. "Don't reject anything, just build a friendship and you'll be good to go."
Dion Gibbons was stationed in eastern Kabul, where he worked at his base's operations centre.
He said he was surprised by the large numbers of troops from different nations still on the ground during his tour, and he acknowledged that the people of Afghanistan will have an adjustment period when NATO troops pull out in 2014.
"Their army is going to take over security but they're in good hands," said Dion Gibbons.
Happy to have served
The Gibbons brothers said they were happy to have played a role in Afghanistan's future. They added they won't be hanging their hats at home in St. Mary's for long.
After some downtime with family, the brothers are heading to Australia for a much-needed holiday.