Bodies of two slain soldiers on their way home
Two Canadian soldiers killed this weekend in Afghanistan are on their way home, after a solemn twilight ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield Sunday evening.
A lone bagpiper played as the caskets of Warrant Officer Gaetan Joseph Roberge and Sgt. Gregory John Kruse were loaded onto a military aircraft.
Roberge and Kruse were killed Saturday after a bomb exploded while the two soldiers were on security patrol about 24 kilometres west of Kandahar City.
An Afghan policeman and interpreter were also killed in the blast, while three Canadian soldiers and a second interpreter were injured.
The soldiers had been on a security patrol in the volatile Panjwaii district, where Canadian troops have repeatedly fought against Taliban gunmen.
Roberge, was a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment who was serving with the Irish Regiment of Canada in Sudbury, Ont. He was serving in Afghanistan to help train the country's national police force.
Kruse was from the 24 Field Squadron, 2 Combat Engineer Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont. He was serving as a member of 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group.
Just days before his death, Kruse's wife, Jill, had sent an email to a military padre, expressing her concern for the soldiers during the holidays. The padre read her statement to the troops who bid their final goodbye to their comrade at Kandahar Airfield.
"Christmas has finally come and our soldier isn't home," Jill Kruse wrote only days ago. "And for some families, they won't have their soldiers sit at their table for Christmas dinner again."
Meanwhile, Capt. Shane Gapp described Roberge as someone with a good sense of humour, and who earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues.
"His men loved him. He loved his men. You could count on him at any point in time to do anything," Gapp said.
Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, the head of Canadian and NATO forces in Kandahar, said in a statement that there were no words to describe the emotional impact such deaths have on soldiers.
"Every one of our soldiers is very dear to us. They are our friends and our brothers."
He added that Canadian soldiers "also grieve for our Afghan brothers with whom we have been working side by side to help make their country more secure and stable."
While on patrol, the soldiers came across an improvised explosive device by the roadside and called in the Quick Reaction Force team to have it removed, reporter Steve Rennie of The Canadian Press said during an interview Sunday morning on CTV Newsnet.
At some point after the team arrived, around 12:15 p.m. local time, an explosion occurred, though it is unclear if it was the bomb the soldiers found or another one that exploded, Rennie said.
"We do know at this point that what happened was the response team came in and at that point there was an explosion and the soldiers were killed," Rennie said.
The three injured soldiers were evacuated to the hospital at Kandahar Airfield and are in good condition, while the injured interpreter was treated at a nearby forward operating base and released.
Family of Roberge and Kruse were notified of their deaths on the same day as the body of Pte. Michael Freeman, who was killed in Kandahar on Friday, was taken aboard a military plane to be transported back to Canada.
Along with one diplomat and two aid workers, 106 Canadian soldiers have now died in the war-torn country since 2002.
With files from The Canadian Press