Saturday, June 02, 2007

Master Corporal Darrell Priede - Ramp Ceremony

Pallbearers carry the body of Master-Corporal Darrell Jason Priede into the waiting C130 Hercules transport plane for his journey home.

Master Corporal Darrell Priede is coming home

Master Cpl. Darrell Priede saw the work of international troops in Afghanistan through the lens of a camera, never far behind fellow soldiers when they're fighting insurgents or helping civilians.
But on Friday night, the task of documenting one of the harshest realities for soldiers in this dusty country fell to others as hundreds of coalition troops lined the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield to pay tribute to the Canadian military photographer before his body began the long journey home.
It was the second time in less than a week that the skirl of bagpipes floated through the hot, dry air of Afghanistan; the second time eight soldiers strained under the emotion and weight of their fallen comrade, chanting "in, out, in, out" to time the steps they took to ease the coffin into the belly of the Hercules transport plane.
Master Cpl. Matthew McCully's remains completed the journey earlier this week; he stepped on a landmine a week ago.
Priede, 30, died Wednesday when the helicopter he was riding in was apparently shot down. Also killed were six others aboard -- five American soldiers and Cpl. Mike Gilyeat, a British military photographer working with Priede.
The two photographers were part of the public affairs unit of Regional Command South, the command centre for coalition activity in the southern provinces of Afghanistan.
A close-knit group, the unit was reeling from the shock of losing Priede and Gilyeat during a U.S. offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province.
"My best memory will be the fact that whenever he was back in the office ... didn't matter what the task was around the office, he'd always be up for it," said Lt.-Col. Mike Smith.
"But you could tell he wasn't where he wanted to be. He wanted to be out with soldiers capturing what they do."
Priede had an infectious enthusiasm and sense of humour, Smith said.
Losing two of the 12 people working in the public affairs wing of Regional Command South was doubly tragic, Smith said.
"They wanted to be able to tell the story of who we are," he said. "What we do, but also why we do it, so wherever soldiers were in this theatre they wanted to be there capturing what they do and bringing that back to the people at home."
Priede and Gilyeat had been in the country for less than six weeks. Though they worked as part of an international team, good-natured competition flickered.
"Darrell was probably always getting that slightly better image," Smith recalled, explaining that Gilyeat didn't have as much photojournalism experience as Priede.
"But he was bringing him on and the banter between them and that friendly competitiveness was great."
Priede and Gilyeat had been photographing a U.S.-led attack against insurgents in a valley where coalition forces have been trying to clear Taliban resistance in order to proceed with a major reconstruction project on the Kajaki dam.
It was the second time Priede was out photographing a combat mission.
"He was good at capturing the nature of the campaign here," said Smith. "He understood soldiers by being one but equally there are a number of images of the Afghans here, showing the people, showing the beautiful country."
Priede had volunteered for the photographer's job with Regional Command South, coming from his home base in Gagetown, N.B. for a six-month tour of duty.
He entered the military as a gunner in 1996, and later served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. He wore the Air Force blue beret in the photo released with news of his death.
Maj. Malcolm Berry, the military chaplain, said on the tarmac that soldiers hope Afghanistan will one day be at peace.
"Darrell, you have fought the good fight, which is making a difference," he said, eulogizing the soldier with St. Paul's final words.
"It was a good fight for him, and it is a good fight for us because it was about wanting good things for the people of Afghanistan."

To sign the guest book for Master Corporal Darrell Priede, click on the link below:

No comments: