I find it regretable that the violent and destructive actions of some young Canadians on the streets of Toronto overshadowed the news that our country lost two more young Canadians in Afghanistan. Two young medics lost their lives when their convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device near Kandahar City. Their deaths bring the total number of Canadian military killed in Afghanistan to one hundred and fifty. They were:
Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht from 1 Canadian Field Hospital, based in Petawawa, Ontario. She was a native of Wallaceburg, ON, and was serving in Afghanistan with the Task Force Kandahar Health Services Unit. MCpl Giesebrecht is third Canadian woman soldier to lose her life in Afghanistan in a combat situation.
According to CBC News, her commander, General Vance, described her as “married and a fit, dedicated and fun-loving medical technician serving her second tour in Afghanistan. ‘She was a mentor and an inspiration for her fellow medical technicians. Kristal loved life to the fullest. She was a wonderful friend, always opening her heart to everyone in need,” Vance said. Kristal prided herself on her health and fitness, although she always felt the solution to any problem could be found in a box of chocolates.’ “
Private Andrew Miller, from Sudbury, ON, served with 2 Field Ambulance, also based in Petawawa, Ontario. He was serving in Afghanistan with the Task Force Kandahar Health Services Unit. In the same press conference, General Vance said that “Andrew was very confident in both his soldier and clinical skills. He wanted nothing more than to be part of the Health Services Unit for ROTO 9, in Afghanistan, so that he could put his skills to the test. Called Caillou by his friends, everyone acknowledged the resemblance [to the children’s cartoon character] as soon as they met him.’ “
These two are not the first CF medics to have been killed in theatre – to my knowledge roughly half a dozen have been killed or wounded in action. As chaplains we have a special affinity with medics – they are non-combatants, armed only to defend themselves and their patients, and they are all about helping others.
Two other Canadian dead have not yet been noted by this blog. Sergeant James Patrick MacNeil from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ontario, was killed on 21 June and his body returned home to Canada on 25 June. As has been frequently noted here in Nova Scotia, “Jamie” as he was known is the first Cape Bretoner to have been killed in Afghanistan and his funeral will take place in Glace Bay in the near future.
Combat engineers have taken a lot of hits in Afghanistan in the last few years. As the IED becomes the weapon of choice by the insurgency, these are the men and women called to do the careful, patient and highly dangerous work which Hollywood fictionalized in The Hurt Locker. I say fictionalized because I’ve spoken with Counter IED guys who liked the movie while aware of its exaggerations.
Another combat engineer who fell this month was Sergeant Martin Goudreault.
Sgt. Goudreault served with the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment and was killed on 6 June by an improvised explosive device while investigating a suspected weapons cache. He was 35, from Sudbury, ON.
Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them.