Military life gives way to chance as author

Retired Chilliwack officer pens book about life in Afghanistan

Warrant Officer (now retired) Marvin C. MacNeill felt there were too many stories to go untold about his experience in the Canadian armed forces.

I could see on the Afghani faces that they were unsure of what to make of us. Some of the children waved, while other people just seemed to disappear. I heard a report on the radio that our interpreter, through reliable sources, had overhead the locals calling us ‘the new evil.’

-They Called Us The New Evil, Memories from Afghanistan 2006-2008

Marvin MacNeill never set out to write a book, never thought of himself as an author.

He spent his life in service to the country, joining the military shortly after graduating from high school. His unit was the Lord Strathcona’s Horse out of Edmonton, and he became a member of a tank crew that went to war-torn countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Working in tanks over the last few decades in these theatres of operations has given him a unique perspective of battle and peacekeeping.

And it’s given him a lifetime of stories that need to be told.

Still, he never thought of himself of an author. Then, one day he received an email from Strathcona that they wanted to put together some stories for a project. They wanted submissions. MacNeill started writing about Afghanistan. He started writing about funny things that happened overseas, and the not-so-funny things.

“It snowballed, one story after another,” he says, sitting in his Sardis dining room. He ended up delivering 100 pages of stories to the unit, and left it with them. When nothing seemed to be happening months or maybe a year later, he went back to inquire. Turned out they didn’t get much other than MacNeill’s and the project had been dropped.

“I thought, well, I’m going to run with it and do it on my own,” he says.

So it was back to the keyboard, and he completed the first version of They Called Us The New Evil. That first edition is a beautiful, large bound book with a solid black hardcover, and only three exist. He laid out the pages himself and had them published at Staples; one for himself, one for each of his parents for Christmas last year. The book was a hit among family and friends.

MacNeill’s candid recounts of war have been well-received by his colleagues who were in the battlefield with him, and also with a well-established military publisher in England, Michael Shackleton.

“He picked it up right away,” MacNeill says, and polished his original work into a more professional format. MacNeill browses through the manuscript on his computer, comparing the font, the photos, the cover and other elements to his first efforts. Both are an accomplishment and he’s equally proud of them. But again, it’s not something he’s ever strived for and his modesty is evident. Along with MacNeill’s own retelling of his experiences in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008, there is an accurate account of machinery there, tactical gear, and countless intriguing photographs for any military enthusiast or history buff.

He’s purchased several copies of the book himself, to ensure he can get them into the hands of his friends and family. But anyone can purchase them online from the publisher, Trackpad Publishing, or in town from Joint Force Tactical in the Garrison Village.

Stories to tell

It was 1999 and MacNeill and his unit were transporting displaced Albanian Muslims through Kosovo as peacekeepers.

“We were going through a village and I was shot in the head,” he says. “But nobody knew what happened. I blacked out.”

He fell backward into his fellow crew without a mark, and woke up sometime later. What followed was a series of medical transports, treatments and confusion that took about a week. They thought maybe he’d had a brain aneurysm, and sent him to a British medical hospital in the area. They did a spinal tap six times, without getting any fluid out. Next they flew him to an American unit for a CT scan, only to learn the scanner was broken. He was sent to Macedonia, and Germany, and nobody knew what was wrong with him.

He was sent back to Kosovo a week later, with no answers, and he was worried about his health.

When he got to his bunk, he saw his helmet and picked it up. He removed the camouflage and saw the answer — a bullet hole on one side, and an exit hole on the other.

“This was a hotbed of activity we were in but they weren’t known for engaging so nobody thought of it,” he says.

He went back for three more tours, and was released in February 2017, with a formal retirement as Warrant Officer a few months later.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Warrant Officer (now retired) Marvin C. MacNeill has written a book about his experiences in Afghanistan as a tanker. (Submitted photo)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

ON COOKING: Berry good ideas from Chef Dez

Blueberries work well in sweet or savory dishes.

ON COOKING: Berry good ideas from Chef Dez

Blueberries work well in sweet or savory dishes.

LETTER: Pendulum swinging too far the other way on ‘The Clan’

Writer critical of licence plate stalking and efforts to rename SFU sport teams

LETTER: Border crossings need to step up their game

Due to COVID numbers south of the 49th Parallel, how and why are U.S. residents allowed north

VIDEO: Co-habitating with bears

Maple Ridge is home to a large bear population, and there are tips available to help avoid conflict

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from CP

Missing Fraser Valley man’s car found in Harrison

Michael Denham has been missing since June 27

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident on Vancouver Island

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

Most Read