Brigadier-General Guy Laroche said that 22-year-old Jérémie Ouellet was part of the latest rotation of troops, the majority of coming to Afghanistan in recent weeks from Shilo, Man.
A Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigation is ongoing to establish the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. No further details are available at this time, although enemy action has been ruled out.
The identity of the deceased soldier is:Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet, age 22, 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA), based out of Shilo, Manitoba. He was born in Matane, Que.
The thoughts and prayers of the men and women of the Canadian Forces and those of us here in Canada go out to the family and friends of Bombardier Ouellet both here and overseas.
Statement by the Minister of National Defence on the Death of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet
The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, issued the following statement today on the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan:"I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet who died while serving his country in Afghanistan. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.This is a challenging mission, but the Government of Canada and its international allies are committed to helping the Afghan people achieve peace and stability and rebuild their country and its institutions."
Message from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, on the death of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet
It was with great sadness that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I learned of the death of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet, of the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, stationed at Shilo, in Manitoba.The mission being carried out by our soldiers in Afghanistan is in many respects a very difficult and stressful one. It is a tremendous challenge. We salute the generosity of our women and men in uniform as we know they face ordeals on a daily basis.Canadians join with me to offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet. Our hearts are with them as they grieve.
Leaving Afghanistan and Coming Home
With the roar of helicopter rotors thudding across the tarmac at Kandahar airfield, the body of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet began its journey home late Wednesday afternoon.
The 22-year-old artilleryman had been found dead a day earlier in one of the sleeping accommodations at this base. The circumstances of his death have not been revealed and his case is now being probed by a military investigative unit.
But Pierre Bergeron, senior chaplain for the Joint Task Force, told the assembled crowd that today was not the time to ask questions about how this young man died. Instead it is “a time to grieve together and let the family know that we care and share” about their loss.
As he spoke the flag-draped coffin of Bombardier Ouellet was waiting at the edge of the tarmac, with two massed ranks of soldiers waiting for him to pass between them. At a shouted command thousands of soldiers brought their hands up in a salute and, accompanied by a lone bagpiper, the coffin was carried slowly to a waiting Hercules.
The ramp ceremony was attended by thousands of soldiers from the other countries contributing to this mission. The diversity of both nation and unit was evident in the varied head dress, which included berets in red, green, blue and black. There were also wedge-shaped caps, ball caps and an Australian bush hat, one side pinned up and a chinstrap holding it in place.
Brigadier-General Guy Laroche, the commander of the Canadian contingent operating out of this base, was standing with other senior officers at the foot of the plane's ramp. At his side was Elissa Golberg, the civilian representative of Canada in Kandahar.
Within minutes the ceremony was over and the plane's crew were preparing for the flight to Canada. Bombardier Ouellet will be accompanied on the long flight by a member of his unit.
Repatriation Ceremony - Friday, March 14, 2008
The body of Jeremie Ouellet has returned to Canadian soil. A military plane carrying the flag-draped casket of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet arrived at CFB Trenton, Ont. on Friday afternoon. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and other dignitaries met the plane.
Ouellet, 22, a native of Matane, Que., was stationed at CFB Shilo in southern Manitoba.
It was really sombre," said Capt. Nicole Meszaros, a spokesperson for CFB Trenton. "You can see the family struggling to deal with this. And we know they're hurting here at CFB Trenton -- and without sounding cliche, we're hurting for them. It's a sad moment. A sad ceremony."
"I know what some people are thinking and I can tell you he was not the type of person to commit suicide," said Jérémie's uncle, Alain Ouellet, who operates a gas station and convenience store in Matane.
Mr. Ouellet described his nephew as a big, strong man who, at 250 pounds, didn't drink alcohol or take drugs. He was disciplined and would never use physical force against anyone, Mr. Ouellet said.
"Was it an accident, was he manipulating his weapon, was he cleaning his gun? We don't know. All I can tell you is that he was proud to be a soldier and he was looking forward to being deployed in Afghanistan," Mr. Ouellet said, his voice shaking.
Among the soldiers returning from the previous rotation was Jérémie's brother Michael, who had experienced the stress of military operations in Afghanistan.
"We will miss him a lot as will his friends," the family said in a statement issued yesterday by the Defence Department. "Jérémie will remain in our hearts and we will continue to think of him."