William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

PARK BENCH HEADLINES

Brigadier General Romeo Dallaire
Major General Romeo Dallaire: A Canadian Hero
Have you ever sat with soldiers
in the canteen drinking beers
and listened to their stories
of their courage, strengths and fears?

Have you hung up in the tower
out at Shilo Camp;
and hooked up on a buffalo
and stood upon the ramp?

Did you check your buddy’s parachute
in detail and with care;
and are you wearing jumper’s wings
like Romeo Dallaire?

Did you ever wear a blue beret
or walk upon patrol;
and you came back to Canada
and you never lost control?

Have you hugged a 40-ouncer
in the comfort of your chest
and sat upon a park bench
to ponder, cry and rest?

Yesterday a headline
sent me in a rage;
About a fallen soldier,
It jumped up off the page.

He did his best for Canada,
humanity, you and me.
But demon thoughts of Africa
refuse to set him free.

Join with me and let’s all pray
for this soldier of the blue beret.
God give him peace and a better life
with his family, friends and wife.

Let the media keep away
and be careful what they say;
Show some respect – show some care
for the Canadian hero: General Dallaire.

God Bless Peacekeepers

FALL OF A GENERAL

UN’s leader in Rwanda passes out drunk under bench
By Ron Corbett Southam Newspapers

OTTAWA – Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who led the United Nations mission to Rwanda, and who retired from the Canadian Forces earlier this year because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was taken to hospital this week after passing out drunk beneath a park bench in Hull. Dallaire was taken to hospital in an ambulance, treated and released this past Tuesday. He was found in Pare Jacques-Cartier by a stranger who called 911.

On Wednesday, Dallaire confirmed the incident through a Department of National Defence spokesman, and said he regrets what happened, although he offered an explanation. “I have spoken to Dallaire today and he obviously has regrets about this incident.” said Lt.-Col. Brett Boudreau. “However, as you know, he has been very open, very frank, about his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and he has authorized me to say he views this as simply one more step in his healing process.”

Dallaire was a 35-year military veteran when he took early retirement this past April, citing stress and nightmares as a result of Rwanda’s civil war horrors. He was a brigadier-general when he was sent to lead the ill-fated UN mission in 1994, his first UN peacekeeping mission. Under his watch, half a million people were killed in the African country.

In the aftermath of that genocide, many blamed Dallaire, including the Belgian Senate that said the deaths of 10 Belgian paratroopers was at least partially due to the Canadian commander’s “imprudent and unprofessional” decisions and behaviour.

More recently, however, Dallaire has been called the “unsung hero” in the Rwanda genocide, a man who was abandoned by the United Nations, which turned down his many requests for more troops and resources, and who likely averted more deaths from occurring.

“My heart goes out to him. I know he’s battling a lot of demons right now,” said retired Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, who led the UN mission to war-torn Bosnia in 1993. “He was abandoned in Rwanda and I know he spends a lot of time wondering ‘What if? Maybe if I had done something different.’ Those sorts of thoughts.

“I talk to Romeo and he seems perfectly normal, but when I ask him, he tells me he doesn’t feel normal. He’s torn apart inside. That’s what he’s living through right now.”

In Rwanda, Dallaire and his small contingent of troops saw horrors no other Canadian peacekeepers had witnessed before. Men, women and children were hacked to death before their eyes. Entire villages were burned, the occupants tortured and killed. The prime minister of the country was murdered.

MacKenzie says he can only imagine Dallaire’s inner torment. He never had to witness the same atrocities. He says if Dallaire can ever fully recover there could be a bright future ahead for him.

“I would think American universities, for one, would be very keen to have him as a speaker,” he said. “He was there for a bit of history, and the role and function of the UN, that’s news. There would be many people interested in his story.”

“This is really sad,” said MacKenzie. “I just hope he can pull out of it now. Maybe this is rock bottom for him. Let’s hope so:”