Soldiers bid farewell to their 'best friend' at solemn ramp ceremony

Bagpipes played solemnly on Monday as the body of a Canadian soldier was carried onto an airplane at the Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan, before beginning the journey back to Canada.

Bagpipes played solemnly on Monday as thebody of aCanadian soldier was carried onto an airplane at the Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan, before beginning the journey back to Canada.

Pte. Simon Longtin, 23, died Sunday in southern Afghanistan. ((DND))

The body of Pte. Simon Longtin, 23, who was from the Montreal suburb of Longueuil,is expected to arrive Tuesday in Trenton, Ont.

"He was the best friend you could have," fellow soldier Scott Bernier said Monday before the ceremony began. "When you were down, he was always there for you."

Longtinwas killed Sunday when the truck he was travelling in hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, near the village of Masum Ghar.

Longtin arrived in Afghanistan only three weeks before his death, and is the 67th Canadian soldier killed in the country since Canada's military mission began in 2002.

Maj. Casey McLean was charged with breaking the news of Longtin's death to his parents back in Canada.

"What's their strength is their memories of Simon," McLean told CBC News. "They had very positive memories of him and that's what they talked about."

Longtin served in the 800-member Royal 22nd Regiment, which is based in Valcartier,25 kilometres west of Quebec City,and is known as the Van Doos.

McLean said Longtin was proud of what he was doing, and so were his parents.

'We will continue to do our job'

Bernier, who also serves in the Royal 22nd Regiment, said he and the other Canadians in Afghanistan will continue the work Longtin took so much pride in.

"Even if Simon isn't here, we will continue to do our job," Bernier said. "That's why we're here but we will miss him [very] much."

The Van Doos began their six-month tour of Afghanistan on July 30 and Longtin's death is the first for the regiment in the country.

The deployment came as polls indicated that more than two-thirds of Quebecers don't want Canadian troops in Afghanistan, although they do support the soldiers themselves.

Léger Marketing pollster Christian Bourque said Longtin's death may have an impact on Quebecers.

"I do feel that whether you're for or against the political aspect of the intervention over there, I think the loss of life will probably strengthen people's support in our troops abroad," he told CBC News.

With files from the Canadian Press