Troops honour three soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Updated Sat. Dec. 6 2008 9:20 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The remains of the three Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are headed home after an emotional farewell at the Kandahar Airfield on Saturday.
The bodies of Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson and Pte. Demetrios Diplaros were put on a military plane for the flight back to Canada during a ramp ceremony attended by more than 2,000 Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British soldiers.
The three soldiers were killed around 9 a.m. local time Friday after the armoured vehicle they were travelling in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED).
The soldiers, who were from the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based out of Petawawa, Ont., were members of the Task Force Kandahar Operational Mentor and Liaison Team.
The deaths bring Canada's troop death toll in Afghanistan to 100.
Brig.-Gen Denis Thompson said it is the work of each soldier, rather than the number of dead, that he hopes Canadians will focus on.
"I'm hoping that people focus on the individuals and not the numbers," Thompson told reporters Saturday. "Because at the end of the day, each of these men had family, had friends, they certainly had a lot of comrades over here."
Wilson, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, was serving alongside his wife, a fellow soldier. She will return home with her husband's remains.
"He was a highly dedicated, professional and charismatic leader who excelled at all he did," Thompson said Friday. "He loved his work, and dearly loved his wife and children."
McLaren was wounded during a previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, but had been anxious to return, according to Thompson.
"A few weeks ago Mark (McLaren) risked his life crawling towards an Afghan soldier who had been shot in order to provide him first aid under fire," Thompson said.
McLaren's father, Alan McLaren, said his son was engaged, and was a man who died believing strongly in what he was doing.
"Here's my son doing exactly what he wants. He knows why he's doing it. He feels he's making a difference in this world. And that's what he went and did," McLaren told Peterborough, Ont. radio station CKRU on Friday.
"Boy, are we ever proud of him."
Diplaros, described by Thompson as "an exceptional driver and gunner," was on his first tour in Afghanistan.
His father, Jerry Diplaros, also served in the army and was proud that his son followed in his footsteps.
"He saw pictures of me when I was in the army, and he was looking forward to being like his dad," he told CTV Toronto on Friday.
Diplaros said that even though he knew the risks of being a soldier, it didn't make the news any easier.
"It was very hard for me even though I was prepared because I served in the army and I know what the army's all about," he said.
The three soldiers' deaths came about one hour after two Canadian soldiers were injured after an IED exploded near their foot patrol in the volatile Zhari district.
Soldiers stand at attention as the remains as one of the latest three Canadian soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan passes during a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008.
The remains of one the latest three Canadian soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan is carried across the tarmac during a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008.