Sgt. Richard Hamilton is all too familiar with the realities of war.
But that never stops him from accepting a new mission.
The Three Mile Plains native recently embarked on his third mission in Afghanistan, and his sixth tour of duty as an infantry soldier with the Canadian Forces.
“An infantry soldier, that’s what they do — they go to war. They serve and protect,” said Hamilton’s wife, Leslie.
“The mission that they’re on right now is to train the Afghan National Army. Our mandate now is to train them so they don’t need us over there.”
Since joining the military in 1988, Hamilton deployed to the former Yugoslavia in 1993 and 1998, Kosovo in the year 2000 and Afghanistan in 2004, 2007 and 2012.
“My husband makes it seem easier than it is because he’s so laid back. He doesn’t complain. He just does it, no questions asked.”
For Hamilton, deploying at the end of February meant leaving Leslie and their three sons, ranging in age from 13 to 18, behind in Gagetown, N.B. for eight months to return to a place where he has dodged bullets and travelled in a convoy that lost vehicles to enemy fire.
“The last two tours, we lost close friends,” Leslie said in a phone interview from her home.
“This time has probably been the hardest for him… to leave that I’ve seen.
She regrets that being shot at is “nothing new” for the father of her children, but says she couldn’t be prouder of the courageous feats her husband has undertaken without blinking an eye.
“We’re both Christians, and he believes that God’s looking out for him,” she said.
“Sometimes… I wonder (if) we’re playing Russian roulette here. Like, we’ve been lucky so far but you can’t get caught up in that or I would drive myself crazy for the next eight months. I just tell myself he’s going to come home and that’s all I can do.”
Leslie, a commissionaire at CFB Gagetown, has arranged for Hamilton’s picture to be included in a Black Nova Scotian service members display at the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth.
“I’m just extremely proud of him; I can’t say it enough.”
“Sometimes… I wonder (if) we’re playing Russian roulette here. Like, we’ve been lucky so far but you can’t get caught up in that or I would drive myself crazy for the next eight months. I just tell myself he’s going to come home and that’s all I can do.” - Leslie Hamilton
She says her husband often returns to Windsor to attend a Remembrance Day service with his family and honour his late grandfather, Second World War veteran Hibbert Hamilton.
“He goes [to Mapplewood Cemetery] and puts a poppy on his grandfather’s grave,” Leslie said.
In addition to holding his grandfather’s medals, Hamilton has been awarded a General Campaign Star, Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal, Kosovo Bar NATO Medal, Former Yugoslavia Bar NATO Medal, UN Protection Force designation and Canadian Forces decorations.
Leslie says her husband is a modest man who does not seek accolades for his work, but she feels it is important for the people in his hometown to know what “Rich” is doing for his country.
“I just think that it’s important that they know he’s there. He wouldn’t be one to brag himself up, so I do it for him,” she said with a laugh.
“[I want them] to be proud of him, to know that he’s doing this for us, and that he continues to do it. He doesn’t have to, but he does.”