In A Line in the Sand, Captain Ray Wiss recounts in journal form, his return to Canada's FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) in Afghanistan in 2009. Wiss who is also an Emergency Physician at Sudbury Regional Hospital is a Medical Officer for the Second Battalion, Irish Regiment of Canada. This regiment is a reserve infantry regiment based in Sudbury, Ontario.
Wiss spent a little under 4 months, from May 31 to September 29, 2009 in Afghanistan rotating through 3 FOBs; Wilson, MA'Sum and Sperman Ghar in the area around Kandahar City providing medical treatment to both soldiers, local Afghans and even suspected Taliban insurgents.
Unlike his first book, FOB Doc, A Line in the Sand is much more personal and engaging. Because it is a personal journal, the topics discussed are varied and interesting. There are plenty of entries about combat missions by Canadian soldiers as well as separate entries where Wiss describes the special talents and gifts of some of Canada's top soldiers he had the opportunity of serving with. Some entries discuss little known items of interest about CF (Canadian Forces). For example, the entry for July 11 talks about the "Quiet Ones", soldiers who are exceptionally trained and on par with the American Green Berets or the SEALS and who are not assigned to any particular FOB. Instead they take on special assignments throughout Afghanistan.
There are also entries on suicide bombers, the political history of the region which was fascinating, the loss of Canadian soldiers and how difficult it is for even highly trained soldiers to come to terms with the death of a comrade, strategies in war, the ANA (Afghan National Army) and on a more personal note, the impact serving overseas has on his adopted daughter Michelle. As well Wiss discusses why he believes Canada should continue on in its mission in Afghanistan - something I tend to agree with.
The August 21 entry is one that should be required reading for all Canadians especially since it deals with biased reporting by the media, in particular CBC. It is altogether not surprising that Canadians are being fed biased reports of events in Afghanistan including how deaths are reported, in order to undermine support for the mission. This biased reporting, not unknown to CBC, does great dishonour to those who serve Canada in our military and who are currently risking their lives overseas.
There are numerous colour photographs throughout the book, allowing the reader to get a sense of the topography of the province of Kandahar, to see our men and women soldiers whom Wiss writes about, to see the inside of the UMS (Unit Medic Station) and so forth.
The book ends on somewhat low note understandably due to the death of Private Jonathan Couturier from an IED on what was Ray Wiss's last day at FOB Sperwan Ghar. Couturier's death affected all the soldiers terribly because he was only six days away from leaving and on what should have been his last mission. It was only days later while on decompression that Wiss was able to grieve fully.
There is a glossary of abbreviations at the back of the book as well as a gallery of photos of the fallen Canadian soldiers during his time overseas in Afghanistan.
Dr. Wiss is well known for pioneering the use of ultrasound at medic stations to help determine the existence of unknown injuries in wounded soldiers.
A Line in the Sand is a well written account of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. At times Wiss is strongly opinionated but true to what he believes in. I highly recommend this book for every patriotic Canadian and supporter of our troops overseas, whether you support the mission in Afghanistan or not.
Sudbury Lifestyle News article
A Line in the Sand. Canadians at War in Kandahar. by Captain Ray Wiss, M.D.
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre 2010