Repatriation ceremony held for latest Canadian killed in Afghanistan

CFB TRENTON, Ont. – Tears flowed freely on the tarmac as friends and relatives gathered Thursday afternoon to greet the flag-draped casket containing the remains of Trooper Larry Rudd, the latest Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Each clutching red and white roses, loved ones lined up single file behind a hearse to pay their respects.

His sobbing mother Helen Zuidema was among the first to say goodbye.

"I love you Larry," she said.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk were also on hand at Canadian Forces Base Trenton for the 26-year-old’s arrival.

Rudd was killed Monday in a roadside bomb blast while on patrol outside Kandahar City.

The Brantford, Ont., native, who had served as a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was described by his commanding officers as a gentle giant with a bright future in the army.

Rudd was the 146th Canadian soldier to die in the Afghan conflict since Canadian troops arrived in the Central Asian country in 2002.

Meanwhile at CFB Petawawa, more than 1,000 friends, family and soldiers gathered in a drill hall to pay their respects to Col. Geoff Parker, the highest-ranking Canadian officer to die in Afghanistan. He was killed by a roadside bomb on May 18.

Those who spoke at the service remembered Parker as both a dedicated soldier and family man. Parker leaves behind his wife, MJ, and children Charlie, 11, and Alexandria, 9.

His brother, David, said Parker’s greatest ambition was to become a soldier like their grandfather. "He was a humble man. He was a man who called a spade a spade," he said. "Knowing that he died bravely in Afghanistan serving his country, should be solace to us all."

Parker’s wife told mourners beforehand that the ceremony should be a celebration of life, rather than a time of sorrow, several speakers said.

Brig.-Gen. Jean Collin said Parker pushed him to go to Afghanistan.

"Col. Geoff Parker was a prince of a man. Perhaps the finest officer I ever knew," he told the crowd.

"He (went to Afghanistan) not because he wanted another medal on his chest. Not because he wanted the extra money. And not for the glory of it all. He did so because he believed it was the right thing to do," Collin said.

With files from the Ottawa Citizen

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