Afghan living conditions had stunned slain soldier

As a New Brunswick town mourns a hometown boy's death in Afghanistan on Monday, his father says the veteran soldier was stunned by the poverty and violence he saw on his latest mission.

29-year veteran from N.B. 'didn't think that there was such a place in the world'

A soldier from New Brunswick who died Monday in Afghanistan served 29 years in places such as Kosovo but was stunned by the poverty, violence and desperation he saw on his latest mission, his father says.

Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard — who was raised in Bathurst, N.B., and stationed with the Royal Canadian Regiment stationed at CFB Petawawa in Ontario — was killed when a suicide bomber struck his personnel carrier in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan's south. The attack also killed Cpl. Albert Storm ofthe same regiment.

On Tuesday, every flag in Bathurst was flying at half mast as the town rememberedGirouard as a dedicated father of three children and a committed soldier. AlthoughGirouard's wife and daughter remain in Pembroke, Ont.,his parents and other family members still live in Bathurst.
Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard was one of two Canadian soldiers killed in a suicide bombing Monday in Afghanistan. ((DND-Sgt Ron Hartlen))

Girouard, who served in the infantry, was stationed in Germany, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan as well as servingwith NATO in various European countries.But he had never seen living conditions like those that surrounded him after arriving inAfghanistan in August,according to his father,Vincent.

"He said that he didn't think that there was such a place in the world, that people could live like that, the situation. It didn't make sense and yet, they had to defend and try to bring peace."

Had hoped to retire after mission

Girouard had hoped this mission would be his last before retiring from a 29-year military career. He was due home in February.

His mother, Mabel Girouard, has a picture of her son dressed in green fatigues, flanked on either side by his two sons, Robert and Michael, also in uniform. His mother said that next to being a father, being a soldier was the most important thing in the world for Girouard.

"He was 17 years old and he joined the militia. At the time, I figured it was just something to keep him busy, keep him out of trouble, and it stuck to him," she said. "On this final day of his, he still enjoyed the army life."

Girouard boarded a plane for Afghanistan six days ago after returning for a month leave to visit and celebrate Christmas early with his family.

His parents said they do not know when their son's body will be returned from Afghanistan, or when and where funeral services will be held.

Town mourns amid fears for other hometown soldiers

Bathurst Mayor Stephen Brunet, who taught Girouard in school, said the whole town has been shaken by his death.

"People were very upset about this happening, you know, it hits home when you lose one of your own," Brunet said.

"And although Bobby's been away for a while, in different places he was stationed in the military, he's still a Bathurst boy. And his family's still here, and those connections are still here, so there's gonna be a lot of hurt in the community. It's not good news at all."

Brunet said other soldiers from Bathurst are serving in Afghanistan, and the community is hoping and praying they will survive the mission.

"We just keep waking up in the morning and crossing our fingers that we don't hear the name Bathurst associated with anything that's going on in Afghanistan," he said.

"It has happened, and we just cross our fingers that we don't lose any more."