Infantry friends and family wept as military pallbearers carried in the casket of slain soldier Robert Girouard froma light snowfall at CFB Petawawa Wednesday.
The hundreds of mourners gathered in the drill hall to pay tribute to the 46-year-old family man who served as a quiet, confident leader on the battlefield. Chief Warrant Officer Girouard, a father of three from Bathurst, N.B., was hailed as a mentor, a father figure who once counselledyoung soldiers throughtheir mourning, and the heart and soul of his regiment.
He was killed outside Kandahar city by a suicide bomber on Nov. 27, along with 37-year-old Cpl. Albert Storm of Fort Erie, Ont.
"Bobby died a soldier's death, watching his officer's back," Col. Denis Thompson said, before turning his gaze to Girouard's wife, Jackie. She had told Thompson earlier the "tough infantry guys" were afraid to look her in the eye because they didn't want to break down.
"Well I'm looking at you right now, Jackie, and it is making me a little wobbly, and I'm here to tell you what you already know — he was a good man," Thompson said. "In Jackie's own words, Bobby was what a man should be."
First RSM killed by enemy action in 123 years
Girouard was the first Regimental Sergeant Major in the battalion's 123-year history to be killed by enemy action.
Girouard was due to return home for good in February, when he planned to retire after serving 29 years with the army. He was previously stationed in Germany, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Speaking from Landstuhl, Germany, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier said Girouard represents "the incredible national treasures that we have in uniform."
Hillier reflected on the dangers of the operation in Afghanistan and the "terrible, terrible price" soldiers sometimes pay when risking their lives to be there.
Girouard was an "incredible leader, an incredible chief warrant officer, an incredible NCO, an incredible man who inspires us all. His loss is incredible," he said.
Maj. Peter Scott of the Royal Canadian Regiment called Girouard "the glue that kept the battle group motivated and inspired all to do their best."
Scott read a prepared statement from commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, who regretted not being able to attend the service.
"He was both a soldier and a leader and he led from the front and the soldiers knew it," Scott read, characterizing Girouard as a man who fought side-by-side with his comrades: "Bobby is still watching my six o'clock."
Girouard had three children and his two sons, Robert and Michael, are also in the military.