Justin Garrett Boyes was leading a foot patrol of Afghan National police through a district heavily populated by Taliban Wednesdaymorning when the ground exploded beneath him.
Lieutenant Boyes, a 26-year-old father who had just arrived for his second tour of duty in Kandahar 10 days ago, did not survive the blast. Two other Canadian soldiers were injured when the device planted by insurgents detonated at about 9 a.m. They are expected to recover. But Lt. Boyes, the platoon commander for a police mentoring unit based out of the PRT in Kandahar city, was too badly wounded.
He leaves his wife, Alanna, and his three-year-old son, James.
"Justin was a dedicated family man and spent every possible moment with his wife and son," said Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance, the head of coalition troops in Kandahar, said Wednesday night.
"Growing up in Saskatchewan, he was an easygoing Prairie boy who preferred sitting around the back yard with good friends, his family and a cold drink."
Lt. Boyes was a member of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton. He has a brother who is a member of the 2nd Battalion, PPCLI, based in Shilo, Man. The brother is preparing for his own imminent tour in Afghanistan, two relatives said.
Their parents, Angela and Brian, and a sister in Britain, are also left to mourn his death. He's the 132nd Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002.
"I heard of the 131 [other soldiers]who died, but boy is it sure different when it's someone you knew, and saw grow up," one relative said.
Lieutenant Wright Eruebi, an Edmonton-based public-affairs officer with the First Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, worked with Lt. Boyes, attending basic officers' training, and fondly remembered him as a "soldier's soldier."
"When he was leading, he inspired confidence, and made you want to follow him because he knew his stuff. When he was not leading, when he was not the point man, he was a very loyal follower. I saw that in him during our course together," Lt. Eruebi said, recalling their work together in 2007.
"He was just a decent, good soldier," he said.
Both men were posted to Edmonton after they finished their course, and Lt. Eruebi said they had occasionally run into each other and chatted.
"He loved the job. He was passionate about soldiering. He was passionate about leading his troops," he said. "If he didn't like the mission, he wouldn't have gone a second time. He loved the mission. He believed in what we were doing."
A loss so early in the deployment of the battalion will be difficult to accept for the military comrades who worked with Lt. Boyes, Gen. Vance said. The soldiers from Edmonton have only just finished replacing the Quebec battalion that was in Kandahar during the spring and summer.
Lt. Boyes had served six years as an infantry soldier in the reserve force, achieving the rank of master corporal, before taking an officer's commission and transferring to the regular force.
"Although he arrived in Afghanistan only 10 days ago, Justin immediately embraced his role as police mentor and was eager to share his experiences and knowledge with members of the force, all in an effort to provide stability to the population so we could, in concert with the Afghan government, extend basic services and humanitarian assistance to those in need," Gen. Vance said.
"Although he was a member of the PPLCLI for barely a year, he left a lasting impression on those who had the privilege of working for and with him."
With a report from Ian Bailey and Josh Wingrove