This is Tosh Anderson. Born in 1969, the Summer of Love. He's a husband, father, son. Pictured here with one of his boys at a Blue Jays game, he's also a hero. Not just for who he is on a day to day basis, but because he has dedicated his career to serving his nation and has gone on Peace Keeping missions and to War too many times for comfort.
He is also my older brother by five years.
We grew up in a rough neighbourhood. I have many memories from these times, but there's one that stands out when I think of my brother.
I loved to dig in the sand and the dirt when I was a kid. I loved to feel the grains between my fingers and to build. Towers, bridges, little towns. One summer day, I think I was around 7 years old, I spent the whole morning digging and building and driving my Hot Wheels through the little metropolis. I was so absorbed in this little world that I didn't notice the real danger approaching. In every rough neighbourhood you're going to have your bullies.
One of mine was a kid named Tiger. He was a few years older than me and lived half a block away and was pretty much the scourge of all the small kids in the area. Tough, unnaturally strong for a child, he had a rolling swagger and an anger in him I didn't understand until I got older and saw what poverty and abuse can do to a family, and to a child. But understanding was years away at that moment.
He came ambling up, saw my game and my tiny city and started stamping on it, crushing the streets and stores, crystals of sand flying up into my face, the toy cars bent and the tires snapped off. I tried to stop him, but he kicked me in the chest and down I went. As I fell, my frustration surged and I stood up again and shoved him, trying to push him away. One punch was all it took and I was down and out for the count.
The rest has been told to me many times over the years.
I guess my sister saw what was happening and ran over to stop it, but got a punch in the face. Tosh had been just coming outside the house too when he saw all this begin and by the time I got knocked out he was already running into the fray. There was a bit of a tussle, but my brother put Tiger down and by this time half the neighbours had come outside to see what was going on.
Amid all the noise, my brother picked me up and gently carried me to the house, my face caked with sand and blood, my sister's sobs hanging in the air as she ran to get towels.
Over the years, my brother carried me many times. I was always knocking myself out trying to perform impossible feats of daring on my bike, but he never had to fight for me again. A couple years after Tiger I recall finally standing up to another bully and as things started, I glanced toward the house. Tosh was standing at the door and I knew he was there not to save me, but to make sure I stood up on my own, that I picked my battles wisely. But that's a story for another day.
Yesterday as I watched the honour given to our soldiers here in Canada, I thought a lot about my big brother. We haven't been in touch in a few years, life being what it is, and I couldn't help the surge of love and pride and gratitude that came and washed over me. Nor would I have wanted to.
From war to war, battle to battle, to death in the field or in training, injuries stacked upon injuries, comrades fallen and families without loved ones, they sacrifice all for our benefit, so that we, as Canadians, have the blessing of living in an amazing country in an even more amazing time in history. Our luxuries and dramas, our opportunities and triumphs, all rest on the backs of those who fight to make it possible. We have our personal struggles, to be sure, and it's not all paradise, but at least we have the chance to make a life for ourselves in this peaceful land.
I am willing to bet that one of our soldiers this very day is facing the hot Afghanistan sun, the acrid smell of gunpowder lingering in the dry air as they pick up a child whose face is caked with blood and sand. They hold that child close to their chest, uniform dusty and dirtied, and they carry that light, limp body to safety.
All politics aside, the desire to do good, to be strong for others when other strength fails, the will to see a job done and done right, and the discipline to work as a team - these are the attributes of those who wouldn't call themselves heroes, but to me, these men and women are exactly that.
And we will always remember them.
I love you.