Master Corporal Darrell Jason PriedeI have received confirmation about our fallen Canadian Soldier.
Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede, a military Imagery Technician serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Regional Command (South) Headquarters at Kandahar Airfield, was killed when the helicopter in which he was a passenger went down at approximately 9 p.m. Kandahar time on May 30th, near the town of Kajaki, Helmand Province, about 95 kms northwest of Kandahar City. Master Corporal Priede was a member of the Army News Team from 3 Area Support Group, based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick. His next of kin have been notified.
The other six military personnel (5 from the US and one from England) aboard the helicopter were also killed in the incident.
The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement today "On behalf of the entire Defence community I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede who died when a helicopter, in which he was a passenger, went down in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. I also extend my condolences to the families and friends of the six other coalition troops who died in this incident.Master Corporal Priede was a valued member of the Army News Team from 3 Area Support Group, based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. He gave his life not only to protect Canadians and our national interests, but also to provide hope to Afghans for a better future.Master Corporal Priede was part of an international coalition working to bring peace and security to this troubled country. Canadians are forever proud and grateful for his service and for the contributions of all our men and women in uniform."
Early Thursday, Priede and his wife, Roxanne, of Grand Forks were visited by army personnel, including a chaplin -- and plunged into what he describes as a "bad nightmare."
Their son, Darrell Jason Priede, a military photographer, was dead. The helicopter he was in crashed Wednesday outside Kandahar, near the town of Kajaki, they learned.
"It was totally devastating," he said in a telephone interview with The Vancouver Sun late Thursday morning. "I mean, it's just too bad. I was looking forward to seeing him on the news one day as a journalist or a newscaster. [That's] gone now."
Priede says his 30-year-old son, who volunteered to go to Afghanistan as a photographer, wanted to become a journalist.
"He was just the type of boy that when he put his mind to it, he just succeeded in what he did," he says. "He had that knack -- that thing about it. And he's going to be greatly missed now."
As Priede speaks on the phone, he says he's flipping through photographs he printed out of his son in Afghanistan, as well as images captured through his son's camera lens.
"He's holding the Stanley Cup as I'm looking at him right now ... I've got an eight-inch by 10-inch of him holding the cup and a few other photographs of him with his equipment -- and Kandahar coffee from Tim Hortons. Go Canada Go," Priede says, his voice breaking a little.
He pauses and adds: "I mean, like I say, in the time he's been there, he's done fabulous things."
A few days ago, Priede chatted with his parents via the Internet from Kandahar, using a video webcast: "We talked to him on video for about five to six minutes. Time was up so we had to go," Priede says.
"He was sitting at the booth looking at us and laughing and smiling as normal -- just talking about regular things."
He says his son, who joined the army 11 years ago, loved taking photographs and was doing what he wanted to do.
"He thoroughly wanted to show the people of the world what good Canadians and people are doing over there," says Priede. "It totally backfired but he loved what he was doing and he was good at it."
Darrell Priede, along with six American and British soldiers, died when their helicopter crashed about 95 kilometres west of Kandahar, just after 9 p.m. local time.
Some reports have suggested the helicopter may have been shot down by the Taliban, but Karen Johnstone, a military spokeswoman in Ottawa, said this hadn't been confirmed.
"The cause of the crash is currently under investigation," she said.
A release on the International Security Assistance Force website said units responding to the crash were later "ambushed by enemy fighters."
Capt. Mark Gough, an army spokesman in Halifax -- who works with Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick where Priede was stationed -- said military photographers, or "imagery technicians," play an essential role documenting the experience.
"His pictures spoke volumes [about] the work we're doing over there and are the window into our operations there," Gough said.
"Without guys like Darrell, without photos that they bring back and show back in Canada, people won't understand what we're doing over there."
Some of Priede's photos are posted on the military's combat camera website (www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca).
Although Priede served twice overseas in the Balkans as part of the infantry, this was his first time documenting the experience for the military, says Gough, who knew Priede personally.
"He volunteered to go. He didn't have to go," he says.
"In this case, it was something he'd always wanted to do. This was his first tour overseas as a photographer."
He says Priede had a talent for photography and was one of the best military photographers around.
"He was a quiet, unassuming guy. His work spoke for his abilities."
John Priede said he and his wife will fly to Ontario so they can meet their son's body when it arrives at CFB Trenton on Sunday. After that, they'll go to New Brunswick to be with Priede's wife, Angela. The couple lived near the base in Oromocto.
"It's tough. His wife is even going through worse I imagine," he says.
"They had lots of plans and ambitions."
They didn't have children yet, he says.
Priede says he learned a lot from his son.
"You can never fail if you put your mind to doing something," he says, of his son's outlook. "Have ambition and go and get what you want in life."
And that's what his son did, he says.
"He told us he wanted to do it. He wanted to show what good we're doing over there," Priede says.
"He's beautiful, too. Did you see his picture? He was."
A photograph of Darrell Priede, posted on the Defence Department website, shows a well-built man with broad shoulders, clad in army fatigues. Fingers on the shutter of his Nikon, he smiles at the camera.
In a statement Thursday, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, said Priede "gave his life not only to protect Canadians and our national interests, but also to provide hope to Afghans for a better future."