Slain soldier was frustrated by lack of public support for Afghan war: Widow

By Matthew Fisher, Ryan Cormier and Trish Audette, Canwest News Service and Edmonton Journal October 29, 2009

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan The grieving widow of the latest Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan remembered him Thursday as a loving family man and courageous soldier frustrated by the lack of war support from the Canadian public.

Alanna Boyes read a prepared statement to media in Edmonton a day after the death of her husband, Lt. Justin Boyes.

"Before he left, I told him he was a gallant warrior in the 21st century because whether it was leading a combat operation, doing house renos or changing a poopy diaper, he knew what to do," said Boyes, who was emotional, but composed.

Flanked by family members, Boyes said her husband was a devoted father and a "pillar of stability."

She also mentioned that the young soldier had been frustrated by what he saw was a lack of support on the home front.

"Justin and I believe in the mission in Afghanistan. One of the things that frustrated him was the lack of support from the Canadian citizens he lived to protect," she said. "He said recently 'We're not losing this war, but if we do, it's because we lost it at home first.'"

Boyes, 26, called his three-year-old son, James, Tuesday night before embarking on a foot patrol with Afghan National Police during which he was killed by an improvised explosive device.

The call and the patrol were typical of the Saskatoon native's devotion to his family and to the army, said Padre Yvonne Mills in a eulogy given for him at a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Thursday attended by about 2,500 soldiers from half a dozen NATO countries.

A lone bagpiper skirled a solemn dirge as surviving members of Boyes's Police Operational Mentor Liaison Team carried his flag-draped casket into a waiting CC-130 Hercules transport for the long journey to the Middle East, Europe and Canada.

"Justin was very mature, very calm and rarely complained," said his commanding officer, Maj. Scott Leblanc of Yarmouth, N.S., who had just completed half a year of pre-deployment training with him in Alberta. "He had a dry sense of humour and was a guy who loved his wife and his son the kind of guy you'd be happy to have a beer with."

Two other Canadians were wounded in the explosion. They were listed in good condition at the main NATO military hospital at the Kandahar Airfield.

Boyes had only been an officer for a year in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry after six years in the reserves with the North Saskatchewan Regiment, during which time he completed a degree in political science at the University of Saskatchewan.

It was Boyes's maturity and his experience as a non-commissioned officer in the reserves that caused Leblanc to choose the infantryman as one of his police mentoring team leaders when the unit arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month.

"Justin was laid back and nothing really bothered him," Leblanc said, recalling that they had last had a long conversation over dinner on Thanksgiving. "When others complained, he would take charge. I respected him."

During that evening together earlier this month the two men had discussed family, the mission and mortality, Leblanc said.

"His view was that when it is your time, it is your time," the major said, his eyes red with emotion.

Boyes was out leading a presence patrol so early in his tour because "I wanted to get them out there and expose them to the public in order to explain to them that they were good people here to help them," the major said.

Suffering a fatality Canada's 132nd in Afghanistan so early in a tour was particularly tough on Boyes' fellow soldiers, Leblanc said.

"There has been some shock," he said. "It shows us the reality of the war we fight, but we have a mission to do. I have lots of confidence that they will re-establish themselves.

"I told them to take the time to talk about it with me or other leaders. To cry doesn't mean you are weak. It means you are a man."

Boyes grew up in Saskatoon but lived in Edmonton with his wife, and son.

During a ceremony at the Alberta legislature on Thursday, Premier Ed Stelmach and other politicians offered their condolences to Boyes' family.

Copyright (c) Canwest News Service