Families of Canadian soldiers come to Afghanistan to mourn lost loved ones
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, March 4, 2010 1:16PM EST
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Christine Plamondon wanted to see where her boyfriend spent his final days.
Trooper Jack Bouthillier had only been away for a short while when a roadside bomb took his life, and they hadn't talked much about what it was like to be on the base.
"It was important for me to come here just to be in Jack's shoes in his last moments," Plamondon said Thursday.
"To feel what he felt, to smell what he smelled. To know what the guys do over here, because we didn't have a big chance to talk about it since he was only here for three weeks."
Plamondon joined Bouthillier's father, Raynald, and the families of five other soldiers killed during the Afghan mission Thursday at a special ceremony held at Kandahar Airfield.
The ceremony honoured Bouthillier, Cpl. Christian Bobbitt, Maj. Yannick Pepin, Cpl. Jean-Francois Drouin, Pte. Alexandre Peloquin and Cpl. Martin Joannette.
It was a chance for the families to see where their sons and husbands lived and worked, a glimpse at the country they'd heard so much about in the emails and phone calls home.
"I was unable to talk with him and to know a lot about what was going on around here," Raynald Bouthillier said.
"When I knew I had the privilege to come here, I took it right away because I think that way I'm going to be able to see where he was in his last moments and what they were doing there. For me it was very important to be able to come here. ...
"Everything helps, I think. Everything helps."
Plamondon toured the base with the families, taking in the wood-plank boardwalk with its fast-food outlets, jewelry stores and carpet shops. They saw the quarters where their sons and husbands and boyfriends slept.
At the ceremony they knelt before a memorial to slain troops to lay wreaths and letters to their lost loved ones.
They then took a moment to look at the etched portraits as a piper played a mournful lament.
Some wiped tears from behind dark sunglasses. Others seemed lost in their thoughts.
The governor of Kandahar, Tooryalai Wesa, thanked the families for the ultimate sacrifice their loved ones made to make his country a better place.
"No pain is greater than the loss of a family member," he said.
"No grief is greater than the loss of a child, a spouse or a parent. As a father of three, I can only imagine how much you have suffered. Please know that our Afghans will always remember and honour the sacrifice made by Canadian soldiers and their families."