On the home front, the soldier had begun to put together pieces for family life after the impending end of his mission in Afghanistan: He'd bought a house and he was getting ready to send out wedding invitations.
Those plans made the sudden, unexplained death of Bombardier Karl Manning all the more shocking to his family. The soldier's body was found Friday morning in a small outpost in Zangabad, in Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
The military is investigating the death, saying only it was not the result of an accident, a crime or enemy action. Reports from Afghanistan by The Canadian Press said the military description was code for a likely suicide, words that had his mother choking with rage Sunday. Friends and family say they had no sign Bombardier Manning was having difficulty.
"It's wrong, completely wrong," his mother when reached at the family home on rue de la Victoire in Saguenay, Que. She did not want her name published.
"He had lovely projects on the go, he wanted to have a baby. I don't know how they can say such things."
Manning, a 31-year-old member of the 5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada who was serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group, was nearing the end of his deployment in Afghanistan.
He was an artilleryman and radar operator who spent most of his time in the remote camp in the western part of the Panjwaii district.
"While an investigation is still ongoing to establish the circumstances surrounding his death, foul play and enemy action have been ruled out," said Brigadier-General Dean Milner as he announced the 156th Canadian to die in Afghanistan.
If his death is finally ruled a suicide, it would be the fourth self-inflicted overseas death involving a Canadian soldier on the Afghanistan mission. For now, his family does not believe it is possible.
Réginald Manning, the dead man's father, heard the dreaded news during a visit from military officials at 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Like the soldier's mother, he discounted the possibility of suicide.
"It's terrible to live with this, and even worse to see false news on television," he told Quebec City's Le Soleil newspaper. "It makes me even sadder. Karl was doing very well, he wasn't suicidal at all."
Just last week, Manning's fiancée, Julie Dechamplain, also a member of the military, expressed on Facebook how anxious she was for him to return home.
One month earlier, Manning had announced his engagement to Ms. Dechamplain, saying he'd need mailing addresses for wedding invitations. A cascade of congratulations followed.
The death also shocked Manning's military colleagues in Afghanistan, who told The Canadian Press he was laughing and joking in the mess tent the night before his body was found.
Master Warrant Officer Ghislain Angel, the battery sergeant-major, says when he heard the news, he thought it was a joke.
"I was totally shocked," he said. "He was always smiling. He was always coming to us to talk to us and give us a lot of information, even about his personal life. He was a very great soldier."
MWO Angel admitted the description was not of someone who was suicidal.
"I don't understand it either, sir."