KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The “young, clear eyes” of another Canadian soldier were closed forever by the blast of an improvised explosive device but his efforts in Afghanistan have not been “futile,” his commander said.
Pte. Patrick Lormand, 21, of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, was killed and four others were wounded in the roadside IED blast about 13 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city on Sunday.
Lormand was from Chute-A-Blondeau, Ont., a small village on the Ontario-Quebec border. He was based in Valcartier, Que.
The deadly explosion raised Canada’s military death toll in this bleak and unforgiving land to 130.
“He did not come here as a potential victim, he came here to help and help he did,” said an emotional Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, commander of Canada’s Task Force Kandahar.
“He does not need to be told his efforts are futile for he could see positive results in the communities he was protecting.” Vance was speaking in light of an opinion column from Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.
Kenny described the Afghan mission as “futile” and said “It’s time to retreat from Canada’s Vietnam.” But Vance expressed a very different opinion while lamenting Lormand’s death.
“You need only look into those young, clear eyes to know that he was a good soul, who tried every day to do the right thing and saw in the results of his efforts a chance to succeed on a wider scale on behalf of Canadians and Afghans alike.”
“He took a fatal strike where an Afghan family might have. He lived in the community so they knew the families he was protecting and they saw him as just that — a protector,” said Vance.
“Neither he nor his family benefit from uninformed opinions about what his goals were and the techniques he used to achieve them,” the commander said. “The thousands of young, clear, determined eyes that remain wide open here in Kandahar are working hard, every day to protect and stabilize the population — not an impossible mission as some might suggest.”
Lormand was on a patrol in the volatile Panjwaii district, where Canadian soldiers have been battling the Taliban. The wounded soldiers were treated at Kandahar Airfield for minor injuries and released.
The explosion happened at 1 p.m. Kandahar time on Sunday.
Journalists at Kandahar Airfield were informed almost immediately but it was nearly a full 24 hours before the Canadian Forces lifted the embargo on reporting.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement extending condolences “with great regret” to Lormand’s family and friends. Harper also expressed support for the wounded Canadians.
“This tragic loss will be remembered,” Harper said. “The men and women of our Canadian Forces are dedicated to make a positive impact in this world. Their actions protect Canadians, our interests and our values.”
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, who recently visited the troops in Afghanistan, issued an unusually strong statement saying “it broke my heart today” to learn of Lormand’s death.
“We have lost an extraordinary Canadian,” she said.
Jean paid tribute to the wounded soldiers and went on to say that “not three days ago, I was with our soldiers in Afghanistan to honour the difficult and remarkable job they are doing.”
The Afghans she met “all told me that the actions of our soldiers to insure the security of the area and that the contributions being made by the Canadian International Development Agency and all other civil Canadian partners are helping them to move forward as they face the forces of destruction in their country,” the Governor General said.
Afghan school children “told me how grateful they were to all the soldiers who expose themselves to danger to protect them,” Jean said.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay expressed his “deepest sympathies” over Lormand’s death.
“As a Canadian, Private Larmond deserves the gratitude and respect of his nation. As a soldier his steadfast strength and commitment will be remembered as an example to us all,“ MacKay said.
“His death leaves an immense hole in our hearts,” Col. Jean-Marc Lanthier, Commander 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Valcartier, Que., said Monday.