“I turned on the news and heard about the attack, and all of a sudden I heard Matt’s name and my heart sunk.”
Richmond-Queensborough MLA, Jas Johal, remembers with a heavy heart the moment he received news of Capt. Matthew Dawe’s violent death – several weeks after he last time he spoke with him on the field.
In the summer of 2007, long before he became an elected official in Richmond, Johal, travelled to Afghanistan as a correspondent for Global National News.
For six weeks, he reported on Canadian troops working in the combat zone.
“Since the Korean War, we haven’t had any Canadians in a combat zone like we did in Afghanistan,” said Johal.
It was in Afghanistan that Johal met Capt. Matthew Dawe, who he stayed with for four days as they patrolled villages together with Dawe’s platoon and spent some time at a frontline operating base.
“Matt had two jobs: one was to ferret out the Taliban; two, to build a relationship with local people so they would feel comfortable with Canadian and Western military presence,” said Johal.
Johal told the Richmond News that as a journalist reporting on conflicts around the world, he has seen gun fire and bombings.
But along with that he’s also seen a lot of “sacrifice that (came) from folks who protected them.”
Johal has also reported from places such as Mumbai and Pakistan, which may not be at war but violence is rife.
“You never know when someone is going to toss a hand-grenade in your direction. You never know when there is going to be a fire fight. You never know when an IED (improvised explosive device) buried underground would be detonated.”
“This is what our men and women had to deal with on a regular basis,” said Johal, adding that it was his job, along with camera crew and editor, to document it.
After spending four days of with Dawe, he was scheduled to return to Vancouver.
In one of their last conversations, Dawe told Johal that “he’d had another two or three weeks and he’d be back in Canada and his tour would be done.”
Johal recalled that two or three weeks after his return to Vancouver, he turned on the news to find out Dawe’s name was on the list of those who were on a giant SUV that was hit by an IED.
“To think someone so young, so bright and with such a bright future ahead of him and gave up his ultimate sacrifice for this country. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
This year, Dawe’s mother, Reine Samson Dawe, was awarded the National Silver Cross Mother, commonly referred to as the Silver Cross.
The Memorial Cross is a awarded to a mother who has lost a child in active duty or whose death is later attributed to such duty.
It is awarded to one nominee each year and on Nov. 11, she will place a wreath at the War Memorial in Ottawa on behalf of all Canadian mothers who have lost a son or a daughter in the military service.
Back in Richmond, Johal will also be laying a wreath. His will honour all the fallen soldiers, but it is Dawe who will be front of Johal’s mind.
“Every time I lay down a wreath on Remembrance Day (…) I think of Matt. That one was a bit personal to me.”