I've noticed some concerns from some posters that there seems to be some ongoing rivalry between the US and Canadian BB members. I for one am proud of our neighbors to the north. I've never met a Canadian that I haven't liked ad respected.
Our two nations share the longest unguarded international boundary in the world. We've had a few problems through the years, but nothing worse that the rivalry that exists between some US states. I imagine that there is some good natured rivalry between the provinces too. I am saddened by the loss of the Canadian soldiers, just as I have been by the needless loss of life with any military exercise. I know that I've been in situations where ordinance going over my position could have fallen short and I could have joined the ranks of "friendly fire" victims. The military is a difficult profession, even during the "good times" and gets much worse during the bad times.
One of the fallen soldier's former commanders wrote a tribute to him that I would like to reprint here for those who are interested. I did edit one word to ensure that it could be printed on the bulletin board, but it is otherwise unchanged.
'King Marco' Ruled the Hearts of a Bosnian Village
I had the pleasure of having worked with Sgt. Leger for two
years when I commanded A Company (Parachute). He was a
soldier of rare skill, compassion, and intellect.
My most vivid memory of then-Master Cpl. Leger was during our
tour in Bosnia in 2000. By that time, most of the
International aid agencies had abandoned Bosnia for more
exciting missions elsewhere, but the need was greater than
ever because of the return of large numbers of displaced
persons to their war-destroyed homes (and lives).
Master Cpl. Leger had been given a particularly difficult area
of responsibility (AOR) in a place called the Livno Valley.
Here, Serbs who had been ethnically cleansed by their Croat
neighbours were returning to shattered homes and destroyed
lives. Despite the fact that it was beyond our mandate,
Master Cpl. Leger felt that he had to do something to help
these people; to him, it made no sense that he was enforcing a
peace that kept these people living like refugees in their own
He began by doing little things, like constantly harassing his
company commander (me) for resources to help these people. He
took leftover and thrown away building supplies, and
distributed these on patrol. He snuck food from the camp
kitchen, and spirited off the camp water truck when no one was
looking. The more he found to help with, the more he needed,
as those villagers he was helping told their friends to return
home, that the Canadians would help them. Soon, a shattered
village began to rebuild.
The Livno valley became Master Cpl. Leger's adopted home. He
lived in the camp with the rest of us, but his heart and mind
was always with 'his' people stuck in the bombed-out houses
among mine-strewn fields. He could not accept that
humanitarian aid agencies had simply left these people to fend
for themselves. He began to badger the local UNHCR
representative, and any aid agency that drove through the area
was stopped by Master Cpl. Leger and given a lecture on the
conditions and requirements for assistance.
Finally, I explained to Master Cpl. Leger that to get any
resources from UNHCR or any other aid agency, he was going to
have to get their attention, and the only way to get their
attention was to get the locals to appoint a mayor to plead
their case directly. Seizing on the idea, Master Cpl. Leger
organized a 'town hall' meeting with his people. He explained
the realities and the requirements, and explained the need to
choose a leader, a spokesperson. Unanimously, they chose him.
Amused, he explained that he could not act as their
spokesperson; he was a Canadian soldier - not a Bosnian
politician. He explained the foreign concept of an election,
and they all agreed that this was an excellent way to choose a
new mayor. Again, Master Cpl. Leger was the unanimous choice.
Less amused and more concerned, Master Cpl. Leger explained in
detail that the mayor had to be one of them. He was
ineligible. Finally, after much good-natured teasing and a
quick lesson on the concept of democratic elections theory
done through a bemused translator, the locals chose their
mayor. But they immediately became a constitutional monarchy
when, again by unanimous decision, they named Master Cpl.
Leger their king. "King Marco" was to become Master Cpl.
Leger's lasting title, both in the Livno Valley, and within
the parachute company.
In his advocacy for the plight of the Livno Valley, King Marco
became the irresistible force that eventually wore away the
immovable rocks of misunderstanding and apathy. Eventually,
he became a spokesperson for returnees throughout the Canadian
AOR, and his passion and his commitment made him an eloquent
I used to love to bring VIPs, like our British divisional
commander, the American three-star commander of SFOR, or the
Canadian ambassador to Radonovici in the Livno Valley for
Master Cpl. Leger to brief. His forthright manner and common
sense solutions made converts of them all, and I watched with
pride as he stickhandled every question until even the most
skeptical became his supporters. Eventually, with the support
of the battle group commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Dave Barr,
and the Canadian ambassador, a deal was struck that gave Leger
(and other equally dedicated master corporals) the resources
required to help Bosnians help themselves.
Master Cpl. Leger's proudest day of the tour was when the
first red tile roof went up in the Livno Valley, reversing a
10-year cycle of destruction and despair. King Marco had
brought hope back to the Livno Valley.
I don't know what the Livno Valley looks like today. King
Marco's empire may have returned to ruins, although I doubt
that, as King Marco was as diligent in his succession as he
was in his rule, something few rulers ever strive for or
manage to achieve. I do know that for many, his compassion
was truly and deeply heroic, and added to his already tall
stature as a leader and soldier.
For his work in the Livno Valley, Sgt. Leger was deservedly
awarded a Chief of Defense Staff Commendation last year. He
didn't think that he had done anything that anyone else
wouldn't have done, and that many hadn't already done (but
then, heroes seldom do think much of their efforts or
What I find incredible is that Sgt. Leger was not all that
different from every other trooper in my company. What I find
even more surprising is how an institution as publicly
maligned and neglected as the Canadian Army can continue to
consistently attract and retain guys like Marc Leger. As
historian Jack Granatstein has said of another Canadian Army
at another time, it is probably a better organization than the
people of Canada know or deserve. Marc Leger, and his fellow
soldiers are, as the prime minister has already said, "the
best face of Canada."
He was a godd.mned hero, and we should all take our lead from
his spirit and his actions.
The King is Dead. Long Live the King.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Sgt. Marc (King Marco) Leger of
Lancaster, Ont., was one of four Canadians killed April 18,
2002, when a U.S. F-16 fighter dropped a bomb on members of
the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry during a
live-fire exercise in Afghanistan. Maj. Shane Schreiber, who
serves in another unit of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar,
wrote this tribute the day after Leger's death.
With heartfelt sorrow for your loss, and a deep appreciation for the people of Canada, please accept this Yanks words of greetings and love to our friends to the north.
Apr 25, '02
That's such a beautiful tribute. It is so nice to see a man like that honored like he deserves to be. Honestly with all the troubles in the Canadian military it's comforting and amazing to see a man like that who never became jaded or cynical. He's a good example for all of us.