CAF Story: The friend request

Video / May 5, 2017


We were in Bosnia with NATO, monitoring the country after their war. There was a young boy who, as young boys do, play on trains in the area. While he was on top of the one train he connected with the overhead power line, and took about 30,000 volts to his head. It blew him off the top of the train, but his foot got hooked on the railing. The electricity that went through him had destroyed his down-filled

vest, so all you could see is this child hanging, and feathers in the air.

My name’s Master Warrant Officer John McDougall. I’m a physician assistant. I’m also the clinic Warrant Officer here in Winnipeg.

I treated the boy, put him in our armoured ambulance, and took him to the town of Bihac, which was about 30 minutes away. His parents were remarkably grateful that he survived, because they’d already lost one son to the conflict.

It was my first tour, I had no idea what to expect. You’re trying to reconcile in your mind, how such a beautiful country can have so much damage; so much war, and so much death.

The people by and large, are looking for your help. They want us there to help provide that stability. They just want to get back to buying groceries, working their fields, and looking after their families. And we do what we do to help make that happen for them.

I thought often about him and I’ve wondered how’d he survive, how’d the family make out, you know, postwar, and the whole dynamics of that country coming to grips with who they are.  About five years ago I get a message on Facebook from the young man that I looked after in Bosnia. And we have kept very close connection since then.

I think it speaks volumes to the type of people that are in the military. If we’re this good engaging in our own communities in Canada, I think that’s easily transferable to no matter what country we end up in. I look back at Bosnia, I look at my pictures, and I’m amazed how beautiful of a country it is. How amazing the people were. And those are also some of the big memories that come back.

I’m impressed that after 20 years, I’m able to reconnect with this chance encounter.  

Date modified: