Days before he departed for Afghanistan, one of the six Canadian soldiers killed Sunday in Kandahar told the CBC his military family knew well the cost of war but supported his dedication to the mission.
"My parents handle it pretty well," Cpl. Christopher Paul Stannix said in the interview before his February deployment. "Well, my mom has a little bit of difficulty with it all, but my dad is military — he understands where it's all coming from."
Stannix, 24, was among six Canadians killed when their LAV III struck a roadside bomb at about 1:30 p.m. local time Sunday. It was the worst single-day death toll Canada's armed forces had suffered since the mission in Afghanistan began four years ago.
The soldiers were due back at the main Kandahar base within days to rest after a six-week mission in the desert, their commanding officer said.
In February, Stannix said he joined the Forces shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which he said helped shape his belief in his military duty.
Tookdemotion to serve in Afghanistan
A reservist with the Halifax-based Princess Louise Fusiliers, Stannix had achieved the rank of master corporal but accepted a demotion to corporal in order to go to Afghanistan.
That was the kind of soldier Stannix was, long-time friend Jonathan Keezer told CBC News on Tuesday. "He believed in serving, thought that there was lots of purpose in what he was doing, and just really wanted to go and be a part of it," Keezer said from Newfoundland.
The two friends trained together in Halifax, Canadian Forces Base Aldershot and CFB Gagetown over five years, with Keezer serving as Stannix's second-in-command.
"Always a leader," Keezer said, when asked to describe his comrade as a soldier.
Kept things light
As a friend, he said Stannix was always the one to lighten a heavy mood. "If I felt slowed down by activities during training, he was always there to make some comment to bring me around," Keezer said.
Stannix's family released a written statement saying he volunteered for the mission because he loved Canada and the Canadian Forces, but he also believed in risking his life to improve living conditions for ordinary Afghans.
Before leaving, Stannix said: "I would like to think if I was in the same position there … somebody would be willing to step in and help me in the exact same way."
Stannix went to Afghanistan believing his parents understood his reasons for going.
"Same thing with my common-law partner there," Stannix said of his fiancée, Candice. "She's also military so she kind of gets a pretty good feeling for what's all going on. She knows where I am going I think that makes it a lot easier."
The couple shared a home in Dartmouth, N.S., and had planned to marry in 2008.
Military officials have identified the six dead as:
- Sgt. Donald Lucas, 31, of Burton, N.B. (raised in St. John's, N.L.).
- Cpl. Aaron E. Williams, 23, of Lincoln, N.B.
- Pte. Kevin Vincent Kennedy, 20, of St. Lawrence, N.L.
- Pte. David Robert Greenslade, 20, of Saint John, N.B.
- Cpl. Christopher Paul Stannix, 24, of Dartmouth, N.S.
- Cpl. Brent Poland, 37, of Camlachie, Ont.