Four Canadian soldiers killed by a powerful insurgent bomb along with a journalist were all reservists, part-time members of the armed forces who volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, the military announced Thursday.
The military identified the four as Sgt. George Miok, 28, Cpl. Zachery McCormack, 21, both of Edmonton; Sgt. Kirk Taylor, 28, of Yarmouth, N.S.; and Pte. Garrett Chidley, 21, of Cambridge, Ont.
“The security patrol our soldiers were conducting is part of our continued efforts to bring stability to Kandahar city,” said Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, coalition commander in Kandahar.
“These patrols help us connect with communities and learn about the challenges they face.”
The soldiers, along with Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald, died Wednesday in a powerful blast while on patrol in Kandahar city.
The deaths _ the worst such incident in two-and-a-half years _ bring to 138 the number of soldiers killed on the Afghan mission since 2002.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was with “very heavy hearts” that the nation learned of the deaths.
“These four brave soldiers lost their lives seeking to help Afghans build a better future for themselves,” Harper said in a statement.
“They represent the best Canada has to offer and they perished in a far away land, working tirelessly to advance Canadian values.”
Gov. Gen Michaelle Jean called the tragedy “shocking.”
“It reminds us of the underhanded, blind, daily violence facing our Canadian soldiers, journalists and humanitarian workers in Afghanistan,” Jean said.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said: “Their service exemplifies the very best in courage and selflessness, and their deaths will not be forgotten …”
In his statement, Menard spoke of each soldier with pride, describing them as enthusiastic, passionate soldiers.
Miok, he said, was with the 41 Combat Engineer Regiment.
“He planned meticulously and was always available to his troops,” Menard said. “The welfare of his soldiers came first and they knew they could turn to him for advice and guidance.”
Taylor, who had a “calm demeanour,” served with 84 Independent Field Battery and always spoke fondly of his loved ones back home, where he mentored troubled young adults.
“He was a true gunner and known to the troops as ‘Sgt. Morale’,” Menard said.
McCormack, a member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, was “an outstanding soldier” who was caring and always ready to lend a hand to others.
Chidley, was with the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Menard described him as an avid video game player and someone who “made tough tasks seem easy by joking around.”
The general also praised Lang, the first Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan, for her sensitivity and ability to connect with people, someone who “strove to excel at her job.”
Harper, who is also from Calgary, also praised Lang for her courage in risking her life to report from “one of the world’s most dangerous countries.”
Earlier Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said deaths of the five Canadians killed would not be forgotten.
In a statement of condolence, Hamid Karzai said Afghans recognized the loss.
“Your children sacrificed their lives for the people of Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism,” Karzai said.
“The Afghans will not forget your sacrifice.”
All five died when their armoured vehicle hit a powerful improvised explosive device that left a massive crater in the road on the edge of Kandahar city.
Several soldiers were wounded, as was another civilian, although all were expected to survive.
The loss of life was the third-worst single incident for the eight-year Canadian mission in Afghanistan and the worst in two-and-a-half years.
Lang, 34, was the first Canadian journalist to die covering the war.
She had been in the country little more than two weeks and had a few days earlier declined to go out on a mission she considered too dangerous.
The patrol she was on, however, was in an area said to be extremely safe.
Two soldiers spent part of Thursday cataloguing and photographing Lang’s personal effects for return to her parents in Canada.
Numerous soldiers at Kandahar Airfield stopped by the media tents to express their sympathies to the two remaining journalists covering the Canadian mission.
It was not immediately known when the bodies of the five would be returned to Canada.
Wednesday’s deaths marked the second deadly incident for Canada in a week. Lt. Andrew Nuttall was killed Dec. 23 during a foot patrol in Panjwaii.
In a statement, the Taliban took responsibility for the deaths of eight Americans at a base in Khost province.
The Associated Press said the insurgent group had also claimed responsibility for the attack on the Canadians.