Sunday, May 23, 2010

CFB TRENTON, Ont. - As the C17 Globemaster military aircraft carrying the body of Col. Geoff Parker drew closer on the tarmac, tears flowed down the cheeks of some of the hundreds of onlookers as they pressed up against the fence of the air base to catch a glimpse.

Upon arrival, Parker's wife walked to the hearse with her son and daughter, and placed a tall can of Heineken on her fallen husband's flag-draped casket. The three then said goodbye to the 42-year-old father and husband with a military salute.

Parker, a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed Tuesday when a massive car bomb hit his convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Canadian military officials said the battalion commander was in Kabul to interact with international organizations, in an effort to prepare his team for their upcoming mission.

Five American soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians were also killed in the explosion.

Parker is the seventh Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan this year and the 145th since the mission started eight years ago. He is also the most senior NATO soldier to die in the conflict.

Among the approximately 300 people who gathered along the fence to witness the repatriation ceremony was Ian Stock, who served with Parker several years ago.

The pair met in 1995, when Parker was a regular support staff officer with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in Belleville, Ont.

Stock said the Oakville native, showcased signs of an "excellent officer" throughout all their encounters.

The two men met again a couple of years later when they served in Bosnia.

"Even though I wasn't a close friend, to hear of rising star passing, it just hits everybody," he said. "Close friends or not, we are all a brotherhood."

Five members of the U.S. Army's Fort Drum base in New York State attended the repatriation ceremony to show their support. The Fort Drum's unit lost two of their soldiers during the attack.

Parker was posted to the military's headquarters at Downsview. This fall, he was expected to take up a posting with NATO's Regional Command South.

- With files from Jerome Lessard

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