Family and friends of Master Cpl. Byron Greff don’t want the 28-year-old to be remembered as a footnote to Canada’s mission to Afghanistan.
On Oct. 29, 2011 Greff, who was serving with the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, was riding in an armoured bus as part of a military convoy in Kabul. A Taliban suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives targeted the bus – killing 17 people including Greff.
He became Canada’s final casualty in Afghanistan – and the only Canadian soldier killed after Canada had completed its military mission several months before.
“Remembrance Day is every day for us and that’s my motto. Doing something like this brings everyone together and it’s just a reminder of the sacrifice,” his wife Lindsay told The Canadian Press in an interview after the unveiling of an Afghanistan memorial in his hometown of Lacombe.
“It does not get easier with time.”
Greff, who was accompanied by her daughter Brielle, 5, broke into tears when asked what she wanted Canadians to know about her husband.
“That he was a husband and a father and we miss him so much.”
There were 158 Canadian Forces personnel and four civilians killed during the Afghan conflict.
The plaque attached to the decommissioned LAV 3 armoured vehicle read: “In recognition and memory of the efforts of approximately 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel who served and the 162 Canadians who died in the cause of bringing peace and freedom to the people of Afghanistan.”
Former Cpl. Maury Gratrix, a retired sniper who came up through the ranks with Greff and went to Afghanistan together in 2007, Greff was typical of the soldiers who signed up to the dangers in the war torn country.
“He knew the risks going over there and it’s unfortunate that happened but in the big scheme of things it was a pretty honourable way to go and I think we’re all very proud of him.”
Gratrix describes Greff as friendly and intensive and a soldier who took his job very seriously.
“He was a C-9 gunner for a lot of his time there and he was that go to guy if you needed that extra firepower,” said Gratrix who was thinking of Greff and the other soldiers who died overseas.
“It’s long overdue and not just for Byron but for all Afghan veterans. You don’t see a lot of Afghan memorials around and the fact that it’s starting here is a great way to kick it off for sure.”
Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie was a close friend of the Greff family.
“Byron was always in the neighbourhood – a little terror and not scared of anything,” said Christie, who was mayor when Greff was killed.
“To have a memorial to honour what he has given, the sacrifices that he gave – not only for Lacombe, for Alberta but his country. It’s an honour to be part of it and it’s an honour to have it right here in his hometown.”
Christie said it was a “sobering moment” when he heard Byron had died.
“He was one of ours and we miss him dearly and to have something that recognizes the sacrifices that he gave is important,” he said.
Red Deer MP Blaine Calkins said nothing can bring Byron Greff.
“The words that we say here today will not bring back that father or husband or son to us,” Calkins said.
“This monument will not bring back any of the 162 Canadians lost in Afghanistan but it does stand as a reminder for a family and their connection to a father, a husband and a son.”
Greff had been on his second deployment to Afghanistan.