Updated Thu. Aug. 17 2006 7:31 PM ET
Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom, 23, was an army medic who was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Aug. 11. Known by colleagues as "Boomer", Eykelenboom was serving with the First Field Ambulance unit based out of CFB Edmonton. The following is a statement issued by his family on Thursday.
Thank you all for your support and condolences in this time of anguish. The outpouring of words describing Andrew's impact on everyone's life has been invaluable in helping us through this gruelling time. The grief that overcame us when we were out on the tarmac as we watched the airplane door open to the flag covered coffin was more than we thought we could bear.
The rain that fell as the piper played his song of sorrow allowed us to release our sadness, unencumbered with the rest of the nation. Somehow, God gave us the strength to endure. An hour later when the police were escorting us back to Toronto we were able to laugh and tell stories. We humans are strange creatures.
That entourage included six police cars, two dignitary cars, the hearse, and two family limos. The police stopped traffic, all sirens, making our ride through downtown Toronto seamless and smooth. It was a ride that Andrew would have enjoyed so very much, and he did, we felt him with us.
This feels surreal. We are overwhelmed.
Andrew; a medic with the 1 field ambulance; will not see his 24th birthday. His mission in life was to help people and he believed that the best way to do this was to learn the craft of a lifesaver and join a cause he believed in. He focused on ensuring the people around him were appreciated for who they are and looked for openings to show the benefits of faith and friendship.
Even with a self-directed mission as great as helping others he found time to enjoy the life he was given, hanging out with friends, camping, fishing, snowboarding or surfing. All of which still involved his unspoken drive to educate everyone he could touch with his passion for the Lord and the ideals of care and good deeds.
It has been written that Andrew is a hero for saving the lives of others while serving his country. He would not see things this way.
Andrew would just shrug and say "That's just my job, I did what I was trained to do." His motivation to join the service was not in pursuit of fame or honour. It was his genuine commitment to others.
The work of the NATO forces in Afghanistan is not only about protecting Canada's Sovereignty; it is about making the world a better place for all. The chain of our human society is only as strong as the weakest link and although there are a lot of places that require assistance, we need to focus our efforts in areas where our work can be effective over the long term.
The military presence is required in Afghanistan for many reasons. The foremost reason that comes to our minds is the need to foster an environment where we can show the people that there is another way of life. The median age in Afghanistan is 17 years. This says to us that we have the opportunity to show a better way of life to the future leaders of that vast country.
The tyranny of decades of Taliban control is not the view of the world and through education, those young people will learn the difference between good and evil.
We would like to encourage those who wish to express their thoughts to sign those pages where they can be read and appreciated by all who choose.
He and the 25 soldiers who came before him, did not pay the ultimate price solely for their country; they paid the ultimate price for all of humanity.
Unfortunately for all of us, Corporal Andrew James Eykelenboom has left a gaping hole in our lives.
We are setting up a fund in honour of Andrew and the other soldiers who have lost their lives in this meaningful mission. The fund, "Boomer's Legacy," will benefit the women and children of Afghanistan. We will provide details as soon as possible.