Sarnia’s Matthew Klaudi says it was a privilege helping thousands of desperate Afghans flee to Canada this summer.
“It was definitely a challenge — there was lots of logistical work that had to be done,” the Canadian Armed Forces Corporal said of Operation AEGIS — Canada’s part in a mass civilian evacuation after Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan.
“But in the end, our team, we got the job done and we all walked away from that knowing we really made a positive impact on so many lives.
“It was a privilege to help the Afghans, for sure.”
Klaudi, 27, spoke to The Journal from Al Jahrah, Kuwait, where he’s been deployed since June as a Signal Operator at the Ali Al Salem Air Base.
He’s there as part Operation IMPACT, providing technical support to deployed Canadian Armed Forces members throughout the Middle East.
When hundreds of Afghan refugees began arriving at Camp Canada in Kuwait in August, Klaudi was on hand providing security and support.
“Making sure they were all safe, and if they needed any sort of medical help, food or supplies, I would go find the necessary resources to help them out,” he said.
Klaudi joined the Canadian Forces in 2013 after graduating from Northern Collegiate and is posted to the 3rd Batallion Royal 22e Régiment in Valcartier, Quebec.
“Once they were off the camp I helped transport them to the planes and get them on the planes back to Canada.”
Canada began moving people out of Afghanistan on CAF military aircraft and civilian chartered flights on August 4, and by August 26 had safely evacuated 3,700 people from Kabul airport.
“I needed to understand their culture and have a grasp of how they live and what their culture was like, and it was a bit of a learning experience,” said Klaudi.
“It also just really makes you realize how lucky we are. Seeing them in person and talking to them, just realizing they’re people just like us who want to live a normal life but going through such a struggle. It really felt like we were making a direct impact.”
This is Klaudi’s second overseas deployment, after working on Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine in 2019.
“I’m looking forward to returning home to Sarnia for Christmas,” he said, noting his parents still live here.
Some 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan War, and 165 were killed — including Cpl. Brent Poland of Camlachie and Pvte. William Cushley of Port Lambton, who were killed in action in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Klaudi, who was just a kid when Poland and Cushley died, said it’s difficult to put into words what it was like watching the end of a war they had given their lives for.
“That’s a tough one,” he said with a pause. “I haven’t really processed that yet.”
They were on his mind as Canadians marked Remembrance Day, along with so many who served before him, Klaudi said.
“I’m always thinking about it — and I think the people who came before us are proud of the help we gave the Afghans.”