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DEADLY DUTY

Their names were Sgt. Robert Alan Short and Cpl. Robbie Christopher Beerenfenger,
of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their job was to help keep the peace in war-torn Afghanistan. And they’ve sadly paid for that duty with their lives.

The Canadian soldiers were killed Thursday, when their jeep hit a landmine or a buried shell as it sped along a location near Kabul.Three other men were wounded, and one is in critical condition. The Department of National Defence has identified the injured as Master Corporal Jason Cory Hamilton, Corporal Cameron Lee Laidlaw, and Corporal Thomas Stirling.

None of the hometowns of those involved have been released, but all are members of the Royal Canadian Regiment, 3rd battalion, based in Petawawa, Ont. Defence officials explain the men were part of a two vehicle routine patrol that was traveling about 3.5 kilometres from Camp Julien, the main Canadian base in Kabul. The route had supposedly been cleared by engineers on Wednesday, but it’s not clear if they missed the explosive or whether it had somehow been replanted since then. Short and Beerenfenger were on the right side of the lead Jeep, when it was thrown into the air by the force of the explosion.

“It is my sad duty to inform the House and the people of Canada that casualties have been sustained by Canadians serving in Afghanistan,” a solemn Defence Minister John McCallum told a hushed House of Commons. “Even though we knew that our soldiers were in harm's way, it does not lessen our shock.”

Canada is one of the largest contributors to the Afghanistan peace keeping contingent, with about 1,800 soldiers stationed amongst the 31-country force. But it’s not the first time we’ve lost troops to the war in the former land of the Taliban. Four Canadian soldiers died there last year when a U.S. F-16 fighter jet mistakenly bombed their position during a live-fire training exercise near Kandahar.

THE TORONTO STAR – 2 October 2003

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