Cpl. Nick Bulger became the latest Canadian casualty in the Afghanistan conflict when he was killed by a roadside bomb blast on July 3.
The 30-year-old corporal in the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton was killed Friday when his vehicle in senior commander Brigadier-General. Jonathan Vance's armoured convoy struck a roadside bomb.
The explosion injured five others, and narrowly missed the Canadian Brig.-Gen., a senior commander of coalition forces in the area.
"Fallen comrades are a reality that every soldier knows too well," Chaplain Bastien Leclerc said in his eulogy, delivered on the tarmac for the ramp ceremony in Khandahar. Hundreds of Canadian soldiers stood on the ramp in extreme heat for the ceremony.
"The most difficult times are always when the fall occurs."
Vance said yesterday that Bulger was a "passionate" soldier, destined for leadership training. The 30-year-old father of two had already created a special place among his peers, working to distribute packages from Canada to soldiers in the field.
Sgt. Matthew Parsons, the crew commander of Vance's security detail and a friend of Bulger's for nearly 10 years, spoke of his comrade. Bulger was a "helluva guy" who always offered support when needed.
"He always prompted me to be a better person," Parsons said. "Losing somebody like this – it hits home." "He would never lose an occasion to talk about his family, how proud he was to have them in his life, how much he loved them."
"He talked about how rough it was over there in terms of the lifestyles of the people living there, which is why he put a lot of faith in what he was doing," said John Bowker, one of Bulger's uncles.
A Canada Day interview with Bulger on CBC News highlighted his hope for Afghanistan's future.
"Especially when we're driving down the streets in the rural areas, to look down into the eyes of the children that are there, you get a different perspective," he said Wednesday. "All you see is the war and the destruction and stuff like that, but then when you see those kids running through the streets without a care in the world ... being here makes a huge difference."
Family members and friends gathered at Bulger's childhood home in Buckhorn, Ont., north of Peterborough after hearing the news.
His mother, Kathleen, said she was contacted yesterday morning by military officials, who called her to say Bulger was injured. She heard from them again about 10 minutes later – after the news had taken a turn for the worse.
"I felt like my heart had been ripped out," she said last night.
Through her grief, she insisted "everyone should know how proud he was to be a Canadian soldier and how much he loved his work."
"That's how I want him to be remembered," she said.
Bulger's younger sister, Jessica, remembered him as a dedicated husband and father. His wife, Rebeka, and daughters Brookelyn, 4, and Elizabeth, 2, were the light of his life, said the 21-year-old. "He called the girls his little angels," she said.
Cpl. Bulger originally joined the military in 2000, then left it in 2003. After marrying Rebeka, he rejoined the military in early 2008. This was his first tour in Afghanistan. He was the third Canadian soldier to die in less than a month.
He was scheduled to come home on leave at the end of July.
Cpl. Nick Bulger was the 121st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan. He is expected to pass down the Highway of Heroes on Monday after a 2 p.m. repatriation ceremony in Trenton.