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The Afghan Mission

Four soldiers remembered Add to ...

Private Garrett Chidley: 'He was born to be a soldier'

Garrett Chidley knew at a early age that he wanted to serve his country. His family couldn't deny his purpose, either.

"We always knew that he was born to be a soldier. It was his dream at a young age," his sister, Devon Parsons, wrote in an e-mail. "The purpose was to do something great and be a part of something important. He took his job seriously and knew the risks but stayed strong."

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Private Chidley, who was born in Cambridge, Ont. and grew up in Langley, B.C., was on his first mission to Afghanistan. The 21-year-old served with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and was based in Shilo, Man.

After hearing the news that her brother, along with three other soldiers and a journalist, were killed by a roadside bomb, Ms. Parsons was too emotional to speak about his death. Instead, she e-mailed her memories of her younger brother.

"I want Canadians to remember that he was a brave young man who was proud to be fighting for the greater good of not just Canadians and Americans but also the Afghan people," she said. "He would do it all over again if he had to."

Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, commander of coalition forces in Kandahar, said Pte. Chidley loved speaking about his family, especially his father. At home, he was always the life of a party. He carried that trait with him to Afghanistan.

"Garrett was always ready to lend a hand and made tough tasks seem easy by joking around to lighten the mood. His close friends recall how he always beat them at video games," Gen. Ménard said.

Cam Chidley, Pte. Chidley's father, was also too emotional to speak about the death of his son. He expressed his grief in a short message posted on Facebook. "My ex-wife Sian and I have lost our son Garrett in Afghanistan yesterday," he said. "God help us."

Corporal Zachery McCormack 'His heart was pure'

Blessed with a keen sense of humour, Corporal Zachery McCormack brought his wit to a war zone along with his determination to serve his country.

The 21-year-old member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 4th Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, was looking forward to marrying his fiancée, Nicole, when he returned from his first tour in Afghanistan.

"His heart was pure," said Glenn Purych, Cpl. McCormack's long-time coach with the Salisbury Wrestling Club in Sherwood Park, Alta. "He really wanted to go there because he thought he could make a difference and help out."

Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, commander of Task Force Kandahar, described Cpl. McCormack as an "outstanding solider and dedicated team member."

"He always had a way of raising morale by making the rest of the section laugh," he added.

Cpl. McCormack, who was a four-time national silver medalist in wrestling, joined the reserves in high school. Mr. Purych said hidden behind Cpl. McCormack's "quirky little smile" was a man who thrived on discipline.

On a memorial website dedicated to Cpl. McCormack, Daryl Bonar recalled the newcomer to military service. "I remember recruiting him, watching him transform from a wet behind the ears young man to a confident professionally competent soldier was a source of pride in my job," he wrote.

Fellow soldiers reflected on having shared what would have been numbing overnight duties if it were not for Cpl. McCormack. "I will never forget those late nights we were on sentry and you made me cry from laughing so hard," wrote Justin Yaassoub.

Cpl. McCormack's father, Robin, told The Canadian Press the tight-knit family wasn't ready to make a statement. "We need some time," he said.

Sergeant George Miok 'He looked after everybody'

Sergeant George Miok, known as "Hollywood" to friends for the impeccable care he took of his hair and body, was remembered as the kind of leader soldiers were honoured to follow.

The 28-year-old member of 41 Combat Engineer Regiment based in Edmonton, who had previously been deployed to Bosnia where he defused land mines, was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

"He was definitely the type of guy you'd want next to you," said Corporal Mark Fuchko, who served with Sgt. Miok in Afghanistan in 2005-06.

"He looked after everybody. He was a good leader. He was the type of guy you wanted to follow," he added.

Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, commander of Task Force Kandahar, recalled Sgt. Miok as a "dedicated" senior non-commissioned officer who planned "meticulously."

"The welfare of his soldiers came first and they knew they could turn to him for advice and guidance," he said.

Raised in Edmonton, Sgt. Miok was an elementary school teacher who joined the reserves more than a decade ago. He cared about those in his community and those he didn't know in war-torn corners of the world.

"He liked helping people," said Master Corporal Sean Markwell, who served with Sgt. Miok in Bosnia in 2002.

His said his friend loved his job and thrived on the camaraderie of the other soldiers. He was anxious to return to Afghanistan for a second tour.

"He liked the adrenalin of it and everything we do," MCpl. Markwell added as he reflected on their time in Bosnia where he performed one of the mission's most dangerous jobs.

"You know something could happen, but you know it's just part of the job. It's the risk you take."

Sergeant Kirk Taylor 'Passionate about his job'

The last time Evan MacCabe saw his friend Sergeant Kirk Taylor, they shared beers and wings, caught up on old times and talked about the soldier's first tour in Afghanistan.

The 28-year-old was nervous because he was leaving behind his mother, sister, brother and girlfriend. But he was also excited. "He was going to be part of the reconstruction team and he just wanted to help people rebuild their lives. That's sort of what he did in Yarmouth. He was a youth counsellor," Mr. MacCabe said yesterday.

Residents of Yarmouth and Barrington, N.S., where Sgt. Taylor grew up, were reeling yesterday from the news that he was among four soldiers and a journalist killed by a roadside bomb. He was remembered for his dry sense of humour, his upbeat attitude and his caring nature. No wonder he was known to his troops as "Sgt. Morale."

"Kirk possessed a calm demeanour, great sense of humour and greeted everyone he met with a smile. He was a true gunner," said Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, commander of coalition forces in Kandahar.

"He enjoyed a challenge and, though he didn't seek the spotlight, he would take the difficult jobs without complaint. He was passionate about his job back home where he mentored troubled young adults. He brought this same enthusiasm with him to Afghanistan."

Sgt. Taylor, a member of the 84 Independent Field Battery based in Yarmouth, joined the army soon after high school. Friend Myra LeBlanc said she tried to convince him that perhaps he should turn down the chance to go to Afghanistan.

"When he told me he was going to Afghanistan, I tried to talk him out of it because I was afraid something like this would happen," Ms. LeBlanc said. "But he had his reasons for wanting to go and he was so excited and wanted to go do his part as a soldier. I am saddened by his passing but also very proud of him."

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