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Soldier's Widow Relives The Pain

Posted on Saturday, January 18 at 08:19 by RoyalHighlander

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Marley Leger has never felt so alone, after travelling to Louisiana to hear first-hand what happened when a U.S. pilot dropped a bomb and killed her husband in Afghanistan.
"I think this is the first time I've felt completely lonely," the 28-year-old Edmonton widow said by phone during a break in the hearing.
"I mean, I've felt loneliness throughout this since I lost Marc, but I hadn't really realized until I got here how much I counted on my friends for support and I'm all by myself down here, other than the other family members," Leger said. "It's lonely."

Yet she plans to stay until the end of the military hearing which will determine whether Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach should proceed to a full court martial and face up to 64 years in prison.
The two pilots are charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty for the bombing, which killed Cpl. Marc Leger and three other Canadian soldiers.

"It's rough, it's tough," Leger said of watching videotape taken from the United States plane that dropped the bomb. The tape showed a tiny cluster of Canadian soldiers before their training exercise ended in death and injury.
"We watched the video over and over and over and every time I watch it, it's more difficult. It's very emotional ... I'm dealing with seeing my husband's death over and over every single day. It's tough."

Yet Leger said she needs to be at the air base in Bossier City to represent Marc and hear all the testimony before deciding what the outcome should be. She is watching the process with 15 other Canadians whose families were marked by the friendly fire incident. Marc's parents are also there.
"I'm finding it harder and harder to keep an open mind, to be honest," Leger said. "But I'm doing my best.
"That was my intention, to come down here to hear all sides of the story and make my decision from there, but it's hard. You watch that video and it's quite clear what happened."
Leger said she isn't ready to lay blame. But she was frustrated when she first arrived in the southern States, listening to American news coverage that told only half the story, focusing on the words of the defence lawyers while forgetting the experiences of the victims and their families.
"It is starting to shift a little bit and I think that's a lot to do with the release of the tapes," she said. "I'm actually quite comfortable with the direction it's going.

"It's nice to have all the information come out and nice to have the general public getting the information, a lot of it, that I have had all along."
She said American newspaper and TV reporters are following the trial closely and are interested in speaking with the victims' families.
"It's important for me to do interviews with the American media so that our side does get out, so that people put a face to Marc and to the emotional side of what happened," she said, adding that Americans have treated her with respect during the sensitive time there.

"With the Canadian news media, I'm comforted when I get to speak to them because the Canadian public has been with me right from the beginning throughout this. They know the entire story. They know Marc now and they have a good sense of who I am."
Leger said she hasn't spoken with or seen the accused or their families and has no wish to do so. The defendants watch the trial in a different area, across the base.
"I'm very confident in the system, very confident we are getting a fair trial and I'm confident that justice is going to be served," Leger said. "So even though it may seem very one-sided a lot of the time in the media, I am confident in what is happening."


jsinnema@thejournal.southam.ca




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