'He's alive and we
rejoice at that'
Greene is making a slow, but steady, recovery from an axe attack one year ago in
Afghanistan, Graham Thomson writes from Kandahar.
Thomson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, March 03, 2007
You might not
remember his name. But you surely remember what happened to him.
'This world needs people
like this and so that's what inspires me,' says Debbie Lepore of her fiance,
Capt. Trevor Greene.
Photograph by : Lisa Petka
One year ago
tomorrow, Capt. Trevor Greene was hit in the head by a crazed Afghan wielding an
axe in an attack that horrified Canadians for its viciousness and brutality.
colleagues, who shot the attacker dead on the spot, thought Capt. Greene was
done for. Indeed, the blow was probably deep and deadly enough to kill most
But not Capt.
Greene. Astonishingly, he survived the attack and today is most assuredly alive.
And he has a
message for Canadians: "Despite being clobbered in the head with a Taliban axe,
I would go back in a heartbeat to finish off the mission."
manages to convey humour, optimism and determination, which sums up the man and
the traits that have seen him come so far since the attack. He is still in
Vancouver General Hospital, confined to a bed and wheelchair, struggling through
sessions of physical rehabilitation.
But he is
impairment of his cognitive functions," says his fiancee, Debbie Lepore, who has
been at his side every day since he was brought home. "He thinks as well has he
reasons, she didn't want to release recent photos of Capt. Greene, but says he
looks much the same as he did before the attack, maybe a few pounds lighter.
ongoing fight is to overcome the physical handicap created when the axe cleaved
into the area of the brain that controls his motor functions.
he's not able to walk, he's not able to move his hands and his arms very well at
this point," Ms. Lepore says.
Capt. Greene, who spent his high school years in Orleans, goes through physical
therapy in an attempt to rewire his brain. He is relearning how to move his
hands, his arms and his legs.
"So, if the
brain makes new connections to get those neurons through and the synapses
firing, then there's a chance that he'll get that back," she says. "But he was
hit pretty hard in the area that controls the legs."
It must be at
times a frustrating struggle for Capt. Greene, 42, who before the attack was a
strapping six-foot-four bundle of energy who spoke English, French and Japanese
and wrote several books -- one on the missing women of Vancouver's Downtown
Eastside and another on the homeless in Japan.
in the downtrodden led him to volunteer as a member of Canada's
Civilian-Military Co-operation team in Afghanistan.
physical progress is slow and laborious, measured in the twitch of a finger, the
flutter of a hand. Some days, there is no measurable movement at all.
will take years; there is no fast fix or set schedule. It is akin to Canada's
progress in Afghanistan. Indeed, Capt. Greene's story could stand as a metaphor
for Canada's mission here.
It is the
story of a big-hearted and well-meaning man who sat down with people in the
village of Gumbad, right in the heart of Taliban country, and in a show of trust
and friendship laid down his weapon, removed his combat helmet and took out a
note-pad and pen to write down what the villagers needed.
That's when a
teen brandishing a weapon attacked.
It was the end of
innocence for well-meaning Canada, and a reminder that the country's soldiers
are in a war zone fighting an enemy that will use youngsters to attack from
behind with suicidal brutality.
progress since then has moved in fits and starts. Since the attack on Capt.
Greene, 36 Canadians have been killed.
won a clear victory last summer in Operation Medusa, when the Taliban made the
mistake of standing and fighting a conventional battle, thinking Canadians
wouldn't have the stomach for battle in the districts of Panjwaii and Zhari.
did not follow up on the military triumph with a strategy to help displaced
residents reconstruct their shattered lives.
returning, people are coming home to their farms, but the threat of the Taliban
travel through the area in armoured convoys.
But Canadians do
go out every day, steadily increasing the number of patrols from the Provincial
Reconstruction Team based in Kandahar City, the team Capt. Greene belonged to.
The job of PRT volunteers is to help Afghans rebuild their lives and thus build
a lasting peace. Among other things, they hire Afghans by the hundreds to clear
out long stretches of irrigation canals, help immunize millions of children
against polio and train the Afghan National Police.
After the attack
on Capt. Greene and the escalation of fighting last year, the PRT's work ground
to a halt. Now, the team is back out visiting villages.
Capt. Greene remains very much an optimist of Canada's role in Afghanistan.
"The mission is
critical for propping up the government in a volatile region," he says in an
e-mail statement. "This is not a Band-Aid solution. I believe we can succeed."
Capt. Greene is
still not up to the rigours of an interview, but compared to last year -- when
he almost died from pneumonia and underwent a series of major surgeries -- he
has come a long way. A few weeks ago, he made his first trip outside the
hospital and went to dinner with his fiancee, their two-year-old daughter and
"He's just an
amazing person," Ms. Lepore says. "This world needs people like this and so
that's what inspires me."
military, however, is apparently not so inspired. Ms. Lepore says she is
struggling to get proper therapy for Capt. Greene.
"He's only given
30 minutes of physiotherapy sessions at a time," she says. "He has had virtually
no speech therapy for most of the time that he's been in hospital.
playing telephone and e-mail tag with military officials in Ottawa to find out
why they're not providing more help. As I write this, I still don't have an
But Ms. Lepore,
like Capt. Greene, is an optimist.
"I don't know
where we're going to end up. But I know he's got a long way still to go for
sure. I know he's going to make a very good recovery. I just have a feeling.
He's alive and we rejoice at that."
- - -
A trust fund has
been set up in Capt. Greene's name at the CIBC. Donations can be made to the
Captain Trevor Greene Trust Fund Account #39-31137 (Bank 010, Transit 00500).
© The Ottawa
B.C. soldier critical after Afghan attack