Captain Richard Steven Leary was killed on June 3, 2008 when he came under direct enemy fire during a patrol in the Panjwayi district. The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. Kandahar time. Capt Leary was a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based out of Shilo, Manitoba.
~Le Capitaine Richard (Steve) Leary est décédé le 3 juin 2008 lorsqu’une patrouille à pied à laquelle il participait a essuyé des tirs ennemis directs dans le district de Panjwayi. L’incident est survenu vers 9 h 30, heure de Kandahar. Le Capt Leary était un membre du 2nd Bataillon, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry basé à Shilo, au Manitoba.
Taliban militants killed a Canadian platoon commander in Afghanistan today (Tuesday, June 3, 2008) as he tried to guide his soldiers to safety, in an area of farmland west of Kandahar. Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary, 32, was leading Canadian and Afghan troops in a foot patrol in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province when they were ambushed by small arms fire shortly after 9 a.m. local time. The soldiers returned fire, then repositioned under Leary's leadership in what became a half-hour-long battle. Close air support was called in and the insurgents were pushed back. Leary was struck at about 9:30 a.m., said Colonel Jamie Cade during a news conference. No other soldiers were hurt in the gunfire. "Captain Leary was what we in uniform are expected to be. Captain Leary was a soldier and Captain Leary was a leader," Cade said. "In his memory and the memory of those that have gone before him we remain steadfast in our resolve to bring peace and stability to the people of Afghanistan. He will be greatly missed by his military family." Leary was a platoon commander with 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based out of Shilo, Man. Originally from Brantford, Ont., he was on his first overseas mission. He leaves behind his wife Rachel, his parents Richard and Gail and his sister Brandi. His repatriation ceremony is tentatively scheduled for June 6. After being shot, Leary was airlifted to the medical facility at Kandahar Airfield where he was pronounced dead by a medical officer. "Every death is deeply painful to us, but it is a risk that we as members of the Canadian Armed Forces understand and assume as we work to bring peace and stability to a country that has been torn apart by war," Cade said. Senior army spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen said Leary's men are taking the loss with much difficulty. "When you lose a leader as effective as Capt. Leary, as personable, it is difficult, but we're just thinking about (his) family right now,'' he said. Defence Minister Peter MacKay, the Governor General, the prime minister and the opposition party leaders have all extended their condolences to Leary's family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Capt Leary's family and friends both in Canada and in Afghanistan during this very difficult time. We are deeply saddened by the loss of Capt. Leary. In his memory, and in memory of those who have gone before, we will increase our support and resolve to bring peace and stability to the people of Afghanistan.
"Capt. Steve Leary (my cousin) was an amazing man. He truly was a hero. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. Nobody should have to die this young but he died fighting for what he believed in. Peace." ~Chelsea Embry
They were together for more than half their lives, having been a couple since high school, and were best friends.
Rachel Leary described him as a brave and dedicated man.
"He believed in what he was doing, and he was dedicated to all his guys," Leary said through tears, reading from a prepared statement at Canadian Forces Base Shilo.
For nearly two years, the couple had called Shilo home. Richard Leary was often called "Rich" by his colleagues on the base, a military spokeswoman said.
Whenever her husband was away, Leary said she always knew how much he cared.
"No matter where he was, whether he was training or ... I never doubted how much he loved or missed me," said Leary, 29.
"He was my very best friend, and a wonderful husband."
The Learys, who met in their hometown of Brantford, Ont., have been together since he was 16 and she was 14, Richard's aunt, Terry Careswell, told the Brantford Expositor on Tuesday.
They were to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in August, said Lori Truscott, a military spokeswoman based at Shilo.
As Leary read her statement, she was surrounded by soldiers and flanked by Wanda Watkins, the mother of Pte. Lane Watkins, a Manitoba soldier who was killed last summer in Afghanistan.
"I want every Canadian out there to know that every soldier has someone behind them who loves them and supports them and sacrifices for them," said Leary, her voice shaking.
Asking for privacy to deal with her grief and emotions, Leary did not take reporters' questions.
Richard Leary is also survived by his parents Richard and Gail, and his sister Brandi.
In Afghanistan, thousands of NATO soldiers attended a ramp ceremony Wednesday that marked Leary's final journey home.
A military ceremony is planned for Friday at CFB Trenton in Ontario.
Thursday, June 04, 2008- Military Family Says Goodbye
" ... Be gentle as we walk our brother home ..." Capt. Darren Persaud, battle group chaplain.
Master Cpl. Lizette Leblanc and Cpl. Jessie Veltri carry the casket of Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary at Kandahar Airfield on Wednesday, June 4, 2008. Photo Credit: CP
It is the slow march back to Canada. Or at least as far as a lost soldier's uniformed compatriots can take him – into the belly of a Hercules aircraft."Task Force Afghanistan: To your fallen comrade salute!" the base commander bellowed.And thousands snapped to attentionFive long columns of troops – from Canada, the United States, Holland, France, Romania, Australia, Denmark and Britain – bade a solemn farewell last night to Capt. Richard "Stevo" Leary, killed in a firefight in Panjwaii district Tuesday morning.The ramp ceremonies are always poignant, humbling and quietly overwhelming. There is such unnatural stillness in the tableau.With the soldiers assembled, marching in precision form to their places, the LAV hearse appeared on the edge of the Kandahar Airfield, flag-draped coffin protruding from the rear.The sun, just starting to set, cast slanting rays across the tarmac, silhouetting the turret gunner atop the vehicle.Gently, the casket was removed and placed on the shoulders of eight pallbearers, seven men and one female, arms clasped to brace the weight of their burden.In the front, Pte. Jessie Veltri struggled to contain his sobs but tears mixed with sweat as the bearer party approached the plane. At the back, Master Cpl. Jaison Levanen carried Leary's beret and badge and, behind him, Capt. Ludger Hacault piped a lament.The dead platoon commander's men, most of them, were still out in the area of operations, unable to attend the ceremony, though saluting their captain privately in their combat post last night."Rich Leary – Steve as he was known to his family – was a very stoic individual, very solid leader, extremely loyal and renowned for his loyalty to his troops," Lt.-Col. Dave Corbould told reporters afterward.It was always the mission and his men. They were always first, well before his own personal thoughts. He was a real inspiration to his troops."Leary died of gunshot wounds when his platoon – on a joint patrol mission with Afghan forces – was ambushed by insurgents, in a chronically restive region west of the main base.Leary, Second Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, graduated from officer training just two years ago but was apparently eager to serve in Afghanistan.He was at least the second officer struck down this past week – another, in a separate incident on Monday, was severely wounded by a roadside explosion during a dismounted patrol, and was flown to an American military hospital in Germany for further medical treatment.All this means abrupt adjustments at the platoon command level and younger officers promoted to lead."They're handling it well, as could be expected," said Corbould of Leary's troops. "As Capt. Leary was loyal to his men, they're loyal to his memory. And they're getting on with the mission."Capt. Darren Persaud, the battle group chaplain, gave a short but very moving eulogy for the fallen soldier."We stand at attention to honour the ultimate sacrifice of a son, husband and dear friend. His wish to serve his country by leading his troops into combat was one of his greatest desires. When he was informed that he was coming to Afghanistan, he could not have been happier."He loved his wife, he loved his work, and he loved his troops. His zeal for life was paralleled only by his fiery sense of humour, and a passion to lead. He was a soldier's leader and a great friend."In the eloquent prayer Persaud delivered afterwards, he spoke tenderly of "unfinished conversations", long nights to come full of questions, pain, longing, anger, confusion."Let us not despair," he counselled.Persaud ended with these words:"Capt. Leary, it is for you I eternally pray, dear brother. Rest in peace."
REPATRIATION CEREMONY- He's Coming Home
Our fallen soldier, Captain Richard (Steve) Leary, a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Shilo, Manitoba, is scheduled to return home to Canada tomorrow.
Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.
When: Friday, June 6, 2008, 2 p.m.
Present to pay their respects will be the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and other dignitaries.
Honour our fallen soldier and his family- wear your red, bring your flag... gather along the 401 and overpasses between Trenton and Toronto (our Highway of Heroes). He is coming home.
Repatriation Ceremony - CFB Trenton - Friday, June 6, 2008
The casket of Captain Richard Leary is loaded into a waiting hearse during his repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont. on Friday June 6,
Captain Richard Leary's family members walk to a hearse carrying him at at Canadian Forces Base in Trenton. Photo credit: Fred Thornhill
A repatriation ceremony was held Friday afternoon to mark the return of the most recent Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.
The plane carrying the body of Capt. Richard Steve Leary touched down at Canadian Forces Base Trenton - about 220 kilometres southwest of Ottawa - at 2 p.m., under a hazy sky and was greeted by family and other mourners.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and his successor, Lt-Gen. Walter Natynczyk, who was named to the top job earlier in the day, attended the ceremony.
"It certainly seems supportive of the family and overall, the Canadian Forces, to have them both here on the tarmac," said Capt. Nicole Meszaros, public affairs officer at CFB Trenton.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay also attended the ceremony.
Leary's family approached his flag-draped coffin once it was loaded off the plane into a waiting hearse and had an "emotional" few moments, said Meszaros.
Members of the public were there to show their support and watched from outside the fence around the base.
"There were many, many flags at the fenceline," said Meszaros. She also expected supporters to be lining the stretch of Highway 401 to Toronto, dubbed the Highway of Heroes, where Leary's body was to be taken.
"I know that Canadians were coming out along the 401 to pay respect to the family," she added.
In the wake of his death, the 32 year old was praised as an effective and dedicated leader and earlier this week his wife, and high school sweetheart, Rachel told the media that Leary was "my very best friend and a wonderful husband." The pair grew up in Brantford, Ont.
Journey Along the Highway of Heroes
Maureen Campeau stood in the afternoon heat on an overpass near Brighton, Ont., with only a camouflage-coloured hat decorated in military pins and other paraphernalia to shelter her from the oppressive sun.
But her mind wasn't on the weather.
She was one of dozens of people waiting for the body of Capt. Richard (Steve) Leary to pass beneath. Leary was killed Tuesday during a firefight with Taliban militants in Afghanistan, and his body had been repatriated to Canadian soil only minutes ago at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, just down the road.
Campeau and the others, many dressed in red and clutching Canadian flags, were there to show support for Leary's family as they accompanied his body down Highway 401 - dubbed the Highway of Heroes for the 83 soldiers' bodies that made the journey previously - to Toronto, where it will be examined by a coroner.
Campeau, who is from Brighton, has three brothers-in-law in the Armed Forces, and she said she was "ashamed" this was only the second time she stood on the overpass to show her support.
"It's the only way you can say thank you," she said, her eyes filling with tears.
"When you lose someone close to you, it's nice to know that other people are there to support you. I will be here from now on. Hopefully there won't be another, but if there is, I will be here."
The hearse's arrival was heralded by a single black police car, its siren wailing. The overpass fell silent as people waved their flags or simply stood and stared, some with hands over their mouths.
Afterwards, Cindy Clitherow picked up her baby and took her four-year-old daughter by the hand. It was the first time she had come out to stand on the overpass.
"It's interesting to explain this to a four-year-old, but she understands what she can, and I think it's important that she's here," Clitherow said.
At CFB Trenton, several other supporters lined up outside the air base where the plane delivering Leary's body landed.
Jim Dixon of Belleville, Ont., has only missed four repatriation ceremonies out of the 84 that have been held, and he plans to keep on coming.
He doesn't have any family members in the military, but he believes it's important show support just the same.
"It means a lot to the family to see such a large turnout," Dixon said.
Colin Stillwell, a retired serviceman who spent 28 years in the Canadian Forces, said he's missed "less than six" repatriation ceremonies.
"It's paying respects to a fallen comrade, and it's also to show support to the family that the loss was not in vain and that we do appreciate the sacrifice that the soldier made," Stillwell said. The near 30C temperatures took a toll on military officers who surrounded the plane to salute Leary's return. One nearly collapsed and needed to be taken away in a wheelchair.
Meanwhile, members of Leary's family watched from a shaded area underneath a tent, several of them clutching red flowers.
After the casket was placed in the hearse, about six family members were ushered to the vehicle, where they embraced for several minutes.
The hearse then left for Leary's hometown of Brantford, where the family is expected to hold a private funeral service
Statement by the Minister of National Defence : 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:
"Today we are united in our grief for Captain Richard (Steve) Leary who died in the line of duty in Afghanistan. To his family, friends and loved ones, we extend our deepest sympathies.Captain Leary and his fellow soldiers are affecting positive change in support of the United Nation-mandated, NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. Their bravery and sacrifice allows the Afghan people to rebuild their country after decades of turmoil. I join with Canadians, in respect and admiration, for the men and women in uniform who protect Canadians and promote the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
Statement by Prime Minister Harper
"On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Captain Richard (Steve) Leary who died today in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. “Captain Leary was killed while engaged with insurgents during a joint security patrol in the Panjwayi District. He was making a difference, working alongside his fellow soldiers, to rebuild a war torn country. “The Afghan people have a right to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These are the values that we hold dear in Canada and these are values that our brave Canadian Forces’ members are working to promote in Afghanistan.“We honour Captain Leary’s sacrifice. His efforts will not be forgotten.”