Master Cpl. Lizette Leblanc and Cpl. Jessie Veltri carry the casket of Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary during a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Wednesday. ((Murray Brewster/Canadian Press))

Thousands of soldiers lined the airfield at the NATO base in Kandahar on Wednesday to say goodbye to a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan a day earlier.


Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary was killed Tuesday when he came under direct enemy fire during a patrol in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan. ((Department of National Defence))

Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary, a platoon commander of the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment, based in Shilo, Man., was shot by insurgents Tuesday when Afghan and Canadian soldiers came under fire in the Panjwaii district, said Col. Jamie Cade, deputy commander of the Canadian mission.

Leary was the second Canadian soldier in a month to die in a gun battle, and the 84th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002.

Thousands of his comrades saluted during the ramp service at sunset Wednesday, as members of the battle group carried Leary's casket to the plane. A repatriation ceremony in Canada has been tentatively scheduled for Friday.

The 32-year-old Brantford, Ont., man completed his basic officer training in September 2006. This was his first mission overseas.

His mother, Gail Leary, told the Brantford Expositor that being in the military was something her son always wanted to do.

He and his wife Rachel, who were married in 2002, had talked about him taking a less dangerous job when he returned from Afghanistan so the couple could start a family, the newspaper reported.

With files from the Canadian Press