Jamaican Soldiers Dying Abroad, & Raising the Limit of Military Enlistment, by Peter Polack

Jamaica has usually been conjoined in the media with beaches, reggae and rum, but there is a darker side, not reparation for slavery, but the iniquity dub plate. Sons of this tropical paradise, dying in foreign places unknown to most of Jamaica, were driven by employment, education or immigration opportunities to join a foreign military. They are not alone, and soldiers born in many countries not involved in these wars, also ended up in hospitals or graves. More soldiers from the islands of Fiji died in Afghanistan than did Jamaicans.

Jamaicans have been dying in overseas wars for a very long time. In every major modern war, Jamaican born soldiers have perished in such places as Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of miles from their birthplace, not in service of their country, but for other nations pursuing their own agenda. Many of these conflicts were satellite wars by the big powers such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, all independent countries today, post invasion, with a trail of bodies and doubts.

While the Ukraine conflict precipitated by the Russian invasion rages, it may be useful to remind the many of the few.

The first Canadian soldier killed in Iraq was in fact a Jamaican from Saint Ann, known as the garden parish of Jamaica. Bernard Gooden left Jamaica in 1997 before serving in the Canadian Forces reserves. He was killed in April 2003 during a firefight with Iraqi soldiers.

Gooden was followed in June 2007 by Kimel Watt who served in the U.S. Army in Korea and Germany before he was killed by an IED in Iraq. Kimel was only twenty-one and he was given American citizenship posthumously. Kimel was among one hundred and sixty-one foreign born members of the U.S. Army who were naturalised as American citizens on the following Fourth of July. The group included another dead soldier from Morocco.

Hanover born Dale McCallum, a long serving member of the British Army, was killed in the tumultuous Lashkar Gah district of Helmand, Afghanistan in the summer of 2010. McCallum had previously served in Kosovo and Iraq. The previous summer, three of five British soldiers killed in a single incident, in the same area, were only eighteen.

Orphan Marlon Myrie, who migrated to South Florida and was raised by his sister, ended up being killed, also in Helmand, the following summer of 2011.

Several media outlets including the Jamaican Gleaner mistakenly reported that American soldier Andrew Seabrooks who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008 was from Jamaica. He was from the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York.

At least one Jamaican, originally from Lucea in Hanover is known to have fought in Vietnam with the elite U.S. Army Redcatchers brigade. He was lucky to have survived.

Often caught up in the frenzy and excitement of opportunity to go abroad in the service of colonial governments when confronted with a future life in some small country hamlet, young Jamaicans volunteered and served in both World Wars. Many died or were maimed in some of the worst battles ever to befall the modern world. Twelve hundred of the twelve thousand who joined the British West India Regiment ended up dying from wounds, frostbite and illness in Belgium and Africa.

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Then, there was the no small matter of battlefield executions that included seventeen-year-old Herbert Morris, a Jamaican from Riversdale in the parish of St. Catherine, who was executed on 20th September 1917 behind a church in Poperinge, Belgium.

Private Morris was shot at dawn for desertion with other teenagers for what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As the drumbeats of war beat louder in Eastern Europe it is a useful motto for foreigners, the young and inexperienced to leave expertise to the experts. America, Britain and their allies are awash with wise veterans of foreign wars seeing little regard for their talents after returning home.

Also by Peter Polack:

Russia has now removed the upper age limit of military enlistment.

The Ukraine conflict has repeatedly confirmed the value of mature veterans as an essential resource for the modern military. There is now a compelling argument for the UK Army upper enlistment limit of 52 years and the US Army limit of 42 years to be adjusted for the instant reality to a limit of 60, varied further for high value specialist experience.

Battlefield conditions in the Ukraine have also demonstrated the limited usefulness of extensive physical fitness requirements, best left to elite special purpose units.

Pervasive trench warfare over extended time periods, demand a mature, calmer mind.

It would be a practical approach to the recurring problem of personnel numbers.


  1. Lest we forget? Many victims of the first world war are already forgotten | Letters | The Guardian
  2. Jamaica-born soldier killed in Afghanistan | News | Jamaica Gleaner (jamaica-gleaner.com)
  3. Jamaican soldier killed in Afghanistan | News | Jamaica Gleaner (jamaica-gleaner.com)
  4. Trying to Keep His Home, Guardsman Loses His Life - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
  5. Obituary for Ms. Melissa Seabrooks | C. C. Carter Funeral Home, Inc. (cccarterfuneralhome.com)
  6. Marine Killed in Iraq Buried in Jamaica (myplainview.com)
  7. A new Canadian dies in Iraq - The Globe and Mail
  8. Jamaican marine sergeant killed in Afghanistan laid to rest | News | Jamaica Gleaner (jamaica-gleaner.com)
  9. Slain Marine sergeant honored at burial – Sun Sentinel (sun-sentinel.com)
  10. From Jamaica to Brooklyn to Death in Iraq : NPR
  11. U.S. troops re-enlist, take citizenship oath on the 4th – Monterey Herald


Peter Polack is the author of The Last Hot Battle of the Cold War: South Africa vs. Cuba in the Angolan Civil War (2013), Jamaica, The Land of Film (2017) and Guerrilla Warfare: Kings of Revolution (2018).

He was a contributor to Encyclopedia of Warfare (2013) and worked as a part-time reporter for Reuters News Agency in the Cayman Islands 2014-19 but now lives in Canada.

His work has been published in Small Wars Journal, Defence Procurement International, American Intelligence Journal, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center magazine, Military Times, Foreign Policy News, EU Today, Radio Free Europe, VOA Portuguese, South Africa Times, Africa Monitor, Folha de Sao Paulo, NODAL Cultura, Caribbean Life, Jamaque Paradis, History Cooperative, INews Cayman, Jamaica Gleaner, Miami Herald, Reuters, Toronto Star and The New York Times.

His latest book entitled Soviet Spies Worldwide: Country by Country, 1940–1988 will be published by McFarland. The book is a compendium of Russian espionage activities with nearly five hundred Soviet spies expelled from nearly 100 countries worldwide. He completed Only the Young Shall Die by with Jack McCain USNR about raising the age of military enlistment. He is currently doing research on a curated collection entitled War In Pictures of almost 1,000 images throughout several conflicts over many centuries.


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