More than 1,000 soldiers gathered at Kandahar Airfield for a sombre farewell Sunday to Sgt. John Wayne Faught, the Canadian infantryman who died after stepping on an improvised explosive device.

Pallbearers slowly carried the casket to a waiting transport plane for his final trip to Canada.

Faught, 44, of the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton, was killed Saturday while on a foot patrol with Afghan soldiers near the town of Nakhoney in the volatile Panjwaii district, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.

It was the third lethal strike against Canadian troops in as many weeks.

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Sgt. John Faught, 44, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan's Panjwaii district on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010. He is the 139th Canadian soldier killed since the mission began in 2001. ((DND))

"He loved life and loved the Army but he loved being with his soldiers the most," Padre Dennis Newhook said at the ramp ceremony.

"Sgt. Faught was an inspiration to his platoon, and the platoon not only lost a great leader, they lost an extraordinary friend," the chaplain said.

Newhook said Faught was committed to his soldiers and to Canada's mission in Afghanistan and "died as he lived: leading and protecting his soldiers."

Faught, originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., had planned to serve two more years before retiring from the military.

Faught's death brings the Canadian death toll in the eight-year mission in Afghanistan to 139 soldiers, a diplomat, two aid workers and one journalist.