Fallen trooper honoured at Kandahar ramp ceremony
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The comrades of Trooper Larry Rudd, known among his squadron buddies as a "Gentle Giant" because of his intimidating size but friendly demeanour, bid him a solemn farewell Wednesday at a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.
In a bold display of solidarity, a soldier in a wheelchair, his leg elevated, sat alongside the hundreds of troops who watched in silence as Rudd's flag-draped casket was hoisted into the back of a Hercules military plane to make the long journey back to Canada.
Rudd was driving a vehicle Monday to help resupply soldiers with water and food when he went over an IED in the Panjwaii district village of Salavat, about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
Rudd's commanding officer said the IED that claimed the 26-year-old man's life went unnoticed for some time, killing him almost instantly.
Maj. Christian Lillington said Canadian troops undergo top-notch training to counter the hidden but ever-present threat of IEDs on Afghanistan's battlefields. But he said that can't always provide protection against a weapon that strikes indiscriminately.
"There's no perfect solution. It is certainly a weapon that has no rules," Lillington said, hours before the ramp ceremony.
"We do our best with our training and I think we're pretty damn good at that."
Rudd, raised by a single mother in Brantford, Ont., had a knack for making furniture out of whatever materials he could get his hands on just so his fellow troops could enjoy a measure of comfort when they returned from the battlefield, Lillington said.
"He was able to set up various patios and various lights and a flagpole," said Lillington, a native of Ingonish, N.S.
"We don't know where that stuff came from because there's not a lot of resources out there."
He had other habits too.
"He was a big fan of smokeless tobacco. That was no secret," Lillington said. "He was very proud of his breakfast chew."
IEDs have been the single biggest cause of death among Canadian military personnel in Afghanistan.
Six out of eight Canadian deaths this year in the war-ravaged country were the result of an IED blast. In all, 87 of the 146 Canadian fatalities in the eight-year-old Afghan mission came about from IEDs -- roadside bombs or some other type of explosive, according to the Department of Defence.
Rudd is the fourth member of the Canadian military to die this month, a sign that the insurgent fighting season is underway.
It came less than a week after Col. Geoff Parker -- the highest-ranking member of the Canadian military to die in the Afghan mission -- was killed in a suicide car bombing in Kabul that killed 17 others. Seven Afghans have been arrested in connection with that bombing.
The Panjwaii district is known as the birthplace of the Taliban and has been a bloody battleground for Canadian troops since they arrived in Kandahar province in strength four years ago.
Dozens of Canadians have been injured or killed in the restive district, and while villages and towns have been repeatedly cleared, the Taliban has quietly reasserted itself in parts of the region.