Packages from home warm soldier's heart

By Katie Bartel - Chilliwack Progress, Updated: June 17, 2010 4:28 PM

When Cpl. Robert Burgoyne went overseas to Afghanistan, last October, the one thing that connected him to home were care packages from his mom.

"He kept calling and asking me to send him stuff," said his mom Jennifer Burgoyne. "He thought I was neglecting him."

But little did he know, his mom was actually working with his former elementary school McCammon traditional elementary to send him the best care package ever. Twelve boxes full of granola bars and candy canes and hot chocolate and two-ply toilet paper, and macaroni and cheese, and Pringles all of which arrived over the Christmas season.

"The Pringles were well loved. In fact, I don't think they made it past opening day," said Burgoyne.

But nothing, he said, could beat the letters.

"That was probably the most enjoyable part, reading all the stuff the kids had to say and all their questions," he said. "It was one of the reasons I wanted to come back to the school, to say thank you."

This past Tuesday, Burgoyne, who returned from Afghanistan just two weeks ago, spent the day speaking to McCammon students.

Burgoyne, now 21, enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces when he was just 17. He had been a scout, an air cadet, and an army cadet, joining the reserves just seemed like the natural progression.

"Serving my country was something I always wanted to do," he said.

Burgoyne was deployed to Afghanistan on Oct. 22, 2009. For 210 days, his job was to seek out improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

He came home on May 28.

When he walked into McCammon on Tuesday, wearing his desert dirt uniform and army green beret, the kids couldn't wait to grill him.

"Are you a captain?" asked one boy.

"Have you ever driven a tank?" asked another.

"You have to wear a uniform just like we do," one girl mused.

Burgoyne spent the majority of the morning crouched down into a squat, eye level for most of the kids, answering questions. He told them how a land mine is the size of a dinner plate and is designed to take out vehicles. When they go off, he said, they go "Kaboom!" He told them how he had to be dressed in full army regalia even when the temperatures skyrocketed to 53 degrees. That wasn't always fun, he laughed. When one boy asked if he ever got to throw dynamite, a twinkle appeared in his eye. "Actually, yes I did," he said, which was followed up by wohs from the boys. And when one girl asked if he ever got scared, he briefly paused.

"Sometimes you're scared," he said. "But you're always with your friends so you know you're never alone. That helps."

And knowing that there was a McCammon community at home that cared about him helped too.

Note - Cpl. Robert Burgoyne is a member of 54 Engineer Squadron, 39 CER, Chilliwack BC

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