The Saskatchewan family of one of the Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan earlier this week is praising his generous nature and passion for his work.
Cpl. Dustin Wasden of the Spiritwood, Sask., area was one of three combat engineers killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday.
"There are no words to express how much Dustin will be missed by the family, his friends and the people who loved him and had the privilege to have known him in this life," the family said in a written statement released by the Department of National Defence on Friday.
"Dustin's beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts."
Also killed was Sgt. Shawn Eades, who's from Ontario, and Sapper Stephan Stock, who's from B.C.
Born in Prince Albert, Wasden grew up in the Spiritwood and Leoville area in the west-central part of the province.
The family described Wasden as a dedicated "soldier's soldier" who was also a caring family man, a loving husband and a wonderful father. Wasden leaves behind a wife, Shannon, and a young daughter, Mikayla.
"He loved being a soldier in the Canadian Forces, but he loved being an engineer even more," the statement said. "He was very proud to be an engineer and proud of the people he served with, and strongly believed in his contribution to the mission in Afghanistan. His passion for his work was endless."
Made people laugh
Among his comrades, Wasden was known for his knack for telling stories, his encyclopedic knowledge of music and lyrics and his ability to make people laugh, his family said.
The family said Wasden loved "Shoe Day" a regular occurrence where soldiers distributed shoes and other gifts to children in Afghanistan. "He insisted many times: 'Are we not here for the kids? Is that not why we are here?'"
His high school teacher in Spiritwood, Dave Hyndman, recalled that Wasden was popular and well-liked, although Hyndman thought joining the Army was an unusual choice because Wasden didn't like structure.
"It did surprise me somewhat, but you know, he had talked about it. And I figured, 'Well, yeah, they'll whip him into shape.'"
Wasden's uncle, Dwayne LePage, said while relatives supported Wasden's decision to go overseas, some questioned the mission.
"We don't feel it's right ... that war could go for a hundred years, you know," he said. "A lot of innocent Canadian kids are getting gunned down or bombed or whatever."
Since 2002, 93 Canadian soldiers have been killed during the Afghanistan mission.
Wasden was the second soldier from Saskatchewan to be killed this month.
Master Cpl. Josh Roberts of Saskatoon, who was with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, died on Aug. 9.
Eight of those who have died since 2002 were from Saskatchewan.