'I think about it every day. It's tough not to,' says soldier who earned the Star of Military Valour for his actions.
Warrant Officer David Shultz was doing the good work in Kandahar province on May 6, 2008, protecting officers who were visiting village elders to talk about building mosques and schools, asking if they were threatened by the Taliban. Walking to the second shura of the day, they were ambushed, an attack they handled fairly quickly.
They were waiting for the Afghan National Army to take over and deal with the Taliban dead when the real trouble began and Shultz's muscular heroism shone.
Shultz, now 41, was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He was a father of two, a patrol commander with Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the son of an air force captain. He had joined the army at 18, looking for adventure.
It was a terrible day, he says now from Edmonton. "I think about it every day. It's tough not to." He imagines how it might have gone differently.
"We got hit hard: heavy machine-gun fire, large explosions, rocket-propelled grenades, everything went right to hell. It was hard to see and hard to hear, we had to process everything, to know where the enemy was and find our people."
He called for airstrikes, but the Canadians were too close to the enemy. "They had us on three flanks and they were turning our area into frikkin' rubble. Walls were caving in because their machine-guns were tearing everything to pieces."
A medic, Cpl. Mike Starker, was wounded. There was blood everywhere. While trying to load the injured man onto a skid to carry him away, Shultz and the medic slid into an irrigation canal with water to their waists. "It was hard to pull him up, but I got him and carried him 25 metres, it doesn't sound like very much, but I had some help. . . "
Another man was also injured. "Blood was shooting out and he slid in the water, too. One of his guys got a tourniquet on him and kept on shooting." But Shultz had him, too, yelling at him to move. He'd come to the rescue of two men. He says it wasn't just him, of course. "It took every one of the soldiers that day. It was a team effort."
Then, "things were getting stressful," Shutlz says. "We were completely soaked, fatigued, dehydrated. Now both sides were firing rockets at each other because everyone was running short of ammo."
Light Armoured Vehicles arrived to take the Canadians to their forward operating base. Men were throwing up, some were crying. The medic was dead. And Shultz's heart was burning with revenge, an emotion he did not act on.
"I wish we could have done something better or safer to get us out of there quicker. But you can 'what if' to death and I've done it a thousand times, wishing for a different outcome."
Now he works at a desk as a regimental warrant officer. He loves his time with his children. They go to the park. His yellow lab Rika loves to get in the water. "I live for the children. Ethan is 5 now and Jett is 3 — he was born just before I left in 2008. I kiss them every day and every night."
Then there's his wife: "If there's any spot to say thanks to Jennifer for putting up with me. There have been tough times, with me away on training and two kids. It takes real tenacity and she's a great woman."
His service in Afghanistan has left him a different man. "When I'm outside, I've got a fairly serious look, looking around all the time, assessing what's going on, instead of just enjoying what's going on. I have kids, and they are frikkin' hilarious, but sometimes I'm looking for danger instead of being happy."
He adds: "It's getting better."
"We're back in Canada and things are great. I've got a beautiful family. Fresh water, food and all the luxury of being in this country. Holy smoke, everything is fantastic."
He was awarded the Star of Military Valour in 2009. "I didn't win the medal; I wear the medal on behalf of all my soldiers. I wish all of them had a similar thing to put on their uniform. Every guy was fighting for his life and for each other."
The citation reads: "Regardless of the risk, Warrant Officer Shultz plunged into intense enemy fire to . . . direct his soldiers and engage the enemy. He repeatedly re-entered the danger zone." He was an inspiration to his soldiers.
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