Families, colleagues struggling with the deaths of soldiers and journalist

Families and colleagues are struggling to deal with the deaths of four soldiers and an award-winning journalist killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers killed in Wednesday’s blast, Cpl. Zachary McCormack and Sgt. George Miok, were from the Edmonton area.

A helicopter flies over a road on which four Canadian troops and a reporter embedded with their unit died when their armored vehicle hit a bomb while on a Wednesday afternoon patrol south of Kandahar city.

EDMONTON — Families and colleagues are struggling to deal with the deaths of four soldiers and an award-winning journalist killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Two of the soldiers killed in Wednesday’s blast, Cpl. Zachary McCormack and Sgt. George Miok, were from the Edmonton area.

“We aren’t ready to make a statement yet,” said MCormack’s father, Robin. “We need some time.”

Cpl. McCormack, 21, was a reservist with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment who served in the infantry since 2006.

Sgt. George Miok, 28, was also a reserve soldier who worked as a combat engineer after joining the military in 1998. This was Miok’s second tour of Afghanistan and his third overseas mission after serving in Bosnia.

Miok was a Catholic junior high school teacher who was described by a school official as an enthusiastic member of the military.

“What struck me is his sense of commitment and dedication to the cause of going to Afghanistan and making a difference,” said Lori Nagy, spokeswoman for Edmonton’s Catholic school board.

“It made me very proud as a Canadian to know that we have people that dedicated,” said Nagy. “He was very well liked by the students and a really good guy.”

Cam Chidley, the father of Pte. Garrett Chidley of Cambridge, Ont., was too emotional to speak about the death of his son. He expressed his grief in a short message posted on a social networking website.

“My ex-wife Sian and I have lost our son Garrett in Afghanistan yesterday. God help us.”

Chidley, 21, served with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He joined the military in 2006 and was based at CFB Shilo, Man.

Chidley was raised in Langley, B.C. This was his first mission to Afghanistan.

The other soldier killed by the powerful explosion during a patrol in Kandahar city was Sgt. Kirk Taylor, 28, of Yarmouth, N.S. His family could not be reached for comment.

Maj. Dave Muralt, spokesman for Land Force Western Area, said word of the deaths quickly rippled through the Edmonton Garrison and other bases.

He said the soldiers who died were all about half way through their tours and were to have returned home in March or April.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Thursday expressing sadness over the deaths in Afghanistan.

“The five men and women who perished are true Canadian heroes,” said Harper. “Canadians will never forget their dedication and sacrifice.”

“These four brave soldiers lost their lives seeking to help Afghans build a better future for themselves.”

Harper also praised journalist Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald, whom he said had courageously risked her life reporting from one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Lang won a National Newspaper Award last May for beat reporting.

“She lost her life reporting on the invaluable work being done by Canadian soldiers, aid workers and diplomats in Afghanistan,” he said in the statement.

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier said the five deaths mark a very sad day for Canada. The City of Calgary flag in front of Historic City Hall was lowered to half-mast.

“Lang was an outstanding, hard-working and professional journalist, who was eager to tell Canadians back home about what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan,” said the mayor.

“She will be deeply missed in our community.”

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the deaths are a reminder of the sacrifices that Canadians make every day in the pursuit of peace and security in the war-torn region.

“Their service exemplifies the very best in courage and selflessness,” he said.

The deaths bring to 138 the number of soldiers killed in the mission.

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