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Welcome home, soldier

Back from Afghanistan, Tommy Harvey recharges in Kugluktuk

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Coppermine (Aug 26/02) - The worst thing about Tommy Evikhoak Harvey's six months in Afghanistan -- the thing he says almost made him lose his mind -- was the unrelenting heat.

NNSL Photo

Harvey and his son, Brendon, back together again in Kugluktuk. - photo courtesy of Margaret McKay

"There was no way of getting away from it," he told News/North during a stopover at the Yellowknife airport last Tuesday. "Even at night it was 25 or 30 degrees."

Harvey, armed only with gifts for his children, was en route to the Kitikmeot.

His six-year-old son, who lives in Holman, travelled to Kugluktuk to greet him at the airport. The community also held a celebratory feast in Harvey's honour.

"I'm really excited. It's almost two years since I've seen (my children)," he said.

Harvey will spend two weeks of his much-needed two-month vacation at home and then it's off to Holman for two weeks with his son and two-year-old daughter.

Eventually, he'll make his way back to Edmonton.

"I just bought a new truck and I want to take it on the road and just see where it takes me," said Harvey.

While in Kugluktuk, he'll catch up on "all that good stuff I missed" like taking off on a quad with his brother Earle "to see if we can find some caribou."

He's glad to have a break from military life. "You certainly build a bond together. But it's good in a way to get away from everything. I need time to recharge," he said.

The highlight of his tour of duty was Operation Harpoon. After eight U.S. soldiers were killed, Harvey and others were choppered into a mountainous region sweep the area and make sure it was safe.

"Jumping off that chopper with your buddies beside you and not knowing what to expect was a rush," he said. "Not many people have experienced that."

"Not only was it scary, but it was exhausting," he said. "The air in the mountains is thinner and we were carrying a lot of weight. It was a challenge but we pulled through."

Last month, Harvey was promoted to corporal. He just signed another three-year contract with the military. He will be stationed in Edmonton.

The 23-year-old is not the first military man in his family. His uncle served in Operation Desert Storm.

"Many men in our family have been in the military," said his aunt Faith Embleton, who caught up with him during his Yellowknife stopover.

"It's not a new experience for our family. It makes you a very patriotic Canadian."

Embleton said she's relieved he is safe and jokes she had to "check to see he still has all his fingers and toes."

"I prayed for him a lot. When you have men in the military, you have to trust that God will look after them," said Embleton.

"I think they do their duty and God watches out for them."