By TRACY MCLAUGHLIN,
BRACEBRIDGE -- With tears streaming down her cheeks, the mother of a fallen soldier whispered one last "goodbye, my love" as she lit a candle for her son.
It should have been his birthday party, but instead it was a candlelight vigil Wednesday in honour of Trooper Darryl Caswell, who would have turned 26 the day before. Caswell was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan June 11.
"He was a hero," military padre Lee Lambert told a small crowd gathered at the Memorial Gardens in Bracebridge, where Darlene Cushman, Caswell's mother, lives.
"He sacrificed his life for a people he never even knew so that they could have a better life," Lambert said.
As he spoke about her son, the mother gently smiled, but the tears continued.
"Darryl was not there to conquer, or dictate, or plant the Canadian flag," he said. "He was there to allow the people to be Afghani people, as is their birthright. The Taliban may not have wanted him there, but the people did. And that's what Darryl died for."
As bagpipes played, Cushman clutched hands with her daughter, Jolene, and Cpl. Wade Wick, who was the gunner of the Coyote armoured vehicle when it was hit in the deadly attack.
"He was a great guy. He was my buddy," Wick said. He joked about how Caswell was almost child-like when he received a care package from his mom with flavoured drink mix he would share with the soldiers to add to warm, over-treated drinking water.
"In 40-degree temperatures, it was like a Christmas present," Wick said.