YARMOUTH, N.S. - In a corner of Nova Scotia that has seen its share of hardship in the past year, more than 2,000 people gathered in a hockey arena Monday to say goodbye to a young soldier known for his ability to lead and his knack for making those around him laugh.

The funeral for Sgt. Kirk Taylor, one of four soldiers and a journalist killed Dec. 30 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, included full military honours and a series of tributes that were painfully personal and, at times, incredibly funny.

As the service began inside the Mariners Centre, a hush fell over the crowd as the flag-draped casket containing the remains of the 28-year-old reservist was carried into the arena on a gun carriage pulled by a military truck and followed by an honour guard.

Taylor served with the 84th Independent Field Battery, based in Yarmouth.

On a stage at centre ice, the three clergymen presiding over the service were flanked by three large portraits of Taylor, a husky man in a blue beret and desert camouflage.

One of his best friends, fellow soldier Wayne Zwicker, told the crowd that Taylor had a mischievous sense of humour that often left others laughing at themselves.

"And it didn't matter what he did, you still had to laugh and smile because he had that grin on his face that said it was up to mischief," Zwicker said.

"Kirk lived every day like it was a celebration. Every day was worth living, every day was exciting and something new was going to happen," he said, adding that it wasn't Taylor's habit to dwell on dark thoughts.

"There's no doubt that Kirk would want every one of us, at the end of this, to go and say our piece ... and get on with life and enjoy it and start finding all the good again."

Another friend, Leland Whitman, said Taylor was a natural leader.

"He was an example for us. He was an inspiration," he told the mourners. "He never hesitated to give of himself. Any time he was needed, he was there."

Taylor's unit commander, Maj. Gus Garant, agreed.

"Sgt. Taylor was never shy to step in and become the make-it-happen guy."

When he wasn't serving in the military, Taylor worked for a non-profit agency in Yarmouth that supports people with disabilities.

The town in southwestern Nova Scotia struggled in 2009. It lost its only airline link, then took another hit when Bay Ferries Ltd. shut down the high-speed ferry service that operated between Yarmouth with two towns in Maine.

As well, Yarmouth's famous lobster fishing fleet has had to cope with slumping prices for its catch for the past two years, mainly because of the recession in the United States.

And now, a young resident with so much promise is gone.

Taylor's mother, Tina Smith, said her son's commitment to the Afghan mission never wavered and the outpouring of grief over his death has been a great comfort to her family.

"No matter where you go, you see it in people's eyes," she said on the weekend. "You see it when we made the trip from Trenton back to Toronto, with people lining the overpasses.

"People standing in the freezing cold, tears running down their faces. ... You get a sense that this country really cares about what happened to you and your son and your family."

A private interment was to include a gun salute known as a feu de joie, performed by a firing party with the 1st Field Artillery Regiment based in Halifax.

Taylor spent most of his early years in Bear Point, N.S., where he became a sea cadet and later joined the reserves in April 2000. He also worked at the Artillery School in Gagetown, N.B., and as a team leader with the Yarmouth Ground Search and Rescue Team.

When he was sent to Afghanistan last October, he served the Provincial Reconstruction Team as a specialist in civil-military co-operation.

"He demonstrated that his passion for helping those in need extended far beyond that which was required of him as a soldier and a care worker," Taylor's obituary said.

"He had a unique way of keeping things short and to the point and a wild, witty sense of humour. Kirk often said to his mom, 'I don't know how I get away with saying what I say and not getting in trouble."'

Taylor is survived by his girlfriend, Felicia Raymond of Digby, N.S., brother Jim Wickens of Yarmouth and sister Stephanie Wickens of Cape Sable Island, N.S.

He and four others were killed when the armoured vehicle they were in rolled over an improvised explosive device in Kandahar.

A memorial and funeral service was also held Monday in Vancouver for Michelle Lang, the 34-year-old Calgary Herald reporter killed in the same blast.

Separate services were held Saturday for Cpl. Zachery McCormack, 21, and Sgt. George Miok, 28, in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton.

McCormack, a member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Miok, who taught math, physical education and religion at a Roman Catholic school in Edmonton, had served part time with the 41 Combat Engineer Regiment for 10 years. It was his second time in Afghanistan.

Both soldiers left behind large extended families.

Pte. Garrett Chidley, 21, of Cambridge, Ont., will be buried Tuesday in Surrey, B.C.

Since 2002, 138 Canadian soldiers and two civilians have died during the mission in Afghanistan.