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Afghanistan: 7 Nov 2007
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - In one of the last photos taken of Pte. David Greenslade, he's holding up his hand in what is meant to be a friendly and comforting wave "hello" from inside the armoured vehicle he drove.
Bereaved parents of N.B. soldier bring new meaning to Remembrance Day
He took the picture himself to send home to his mom and dad, Laurie and Don Greenslade, giving them an idea of daily life during dangerous, front-line missions in Afghanistan.
It's just one of many photos of the handsome 20-year-old private fooling around. But when Laurie first saw it, just weeks after David was killed in action, she knew this picture had special meaning.
"It was like he was waving goodbye to us," she says softly.
Few other Canadians will experience this Remembrance Day in the way the Greenslades of Saint John, N.B., will experience it.
Laurie will be the Silver Cross mother for the wreath-laying ceremony in Saint John, one of the newest members of a new generation of bereaved parents who have lost sons and daughters in war.
David was killed on Easter Sunday, one of six soldiers who died when the LAV in which they were travelling near Kandahar City triggered a massive improvised explosive device.
When two more soldiers were killed just a couple of days later in another roadside bomb attack, Easter week became the deadliest combat week for Canadian Forces since the Korean War.
Almost from the moment they heard about their son's death, Laurie and Don have been speaking publicly about their loss and the need for Canadians to support the troops, even if they have mixed feelings about the mission.
Laurie in particular has been a front-line worker in establishing the Red Friday Rally in which people are encouraged to wear red or at least red ribbons in a symbolic show of encouragement for Canadian Forces.
"We're all Canadians and we should support each other," she says firmly.
"Even if you're not for the mission, the fact that they are over there risking their futures, their health, their families' peace of mind - everything to go do this job - that merits our support and prayers."
At their home, which sits on the banks of the picturesque Kennebecasis River in Saint John, Don and Laurie are surrounded by memories of their only child, almost like an embrace.
The family dog, Colby, an eight-year-old Airedale, spends every night curled up among David's personal effects in his bedroom closet. In the living room, David's medals and a large framed photo of the smiling soldier dominate a corner of the room.
The couple only recently found the emotional stamina to sort through his personal effects returned to them from Afghanistan and from his home base at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.
Laurie says that in his journal from Afghanistan, David promised he would live an "amazing" life. That lost future included grandchildren for his doting parents, who freely admit their beautiful son was the centre of their lives.
"His passion for life, his enthusiasm, the way he loved his friends, his smiles, his jokes," Laurie says when asked what she will remember about David on Remembrance Day.
"When he walked through the door, our lives started. He was our whole life."
Don says he remembers his son's passion for the military.
David joined the reserves in high school. He had been in the regular forces only 17 months when he was shipped to Afghanistan last January.
"He really saw it as being part of a band of brothers," Don says, referring to Shakespeare's immortal words about the close bond between soldiers: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers."
"Perhaps because he was an only child, the closeness with his friends and comrades meant a great deal to him," says Don.
And he obviously meant a great deal to them, as illustrated by their efforts to keep in touch with David's parents.
David was a primary LAV driver, but on the day he died a secondary driver had taken the wheel, giving David a chance a to sleep in the back of the armoured carrier. The driver survived.
"I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to speak to the driver," Laurie says of a recent meeting with him.
"David had written in his journal that he wanted to have an amazing life when he came back. So I said to this man, 'I want you to have an amazing life for him.' I tell all his friends that. There should be no guilt in this. They were doing their job."
David's friends who survived the explosion have assured Don and Laurie their son was sound asleep when the bomb detonated.
"That was good to know," she says. "He wasn't aware of anything and it was fast."
Laurie says that she and her husband are sustained by their strong Christian faith. She says they take comfort in the fact that David died on Easter Sunday, and consider it a message of hope.
Chris Morris: The Candian Press
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