Jered Stuffco, Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CLARINGTON, ON - Trooper Darryl Caswell's family was waiting for a phone call from half a world away Monday to mark his brother's birthday at the family home in this quiet bedroom community east of Toronto.

Instead came the knock at the door that every military family dreads, and the terrible news that Caswell had become the 57th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

"He was going to do all he could to call," Caswell's stepmother Christine said Wednesday. "It wasn't the call we were expecting."

Caswell had six weeks left in Afghanistan before he was set to return home, she added.

"He was due to come back on his birthday on the 31st of July," Christine said. "He was so young, he had so much to do and (so much) he wanted to do."

Caswell, 25, was a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, based in Petawawa, Ont. He was deployed with Reconnaissance Squadron from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group.

He was riding in the lead vehicle in what the Canadian Forces call a combat logistics patrol - a perilous mission that involves restocking forward operating bases and soldiers in the field with everything from ammunition and equipment to rations and water.

Darryl had been serving in Afghanistan since January, his stepmother said. "He was doing what he wanted to do and what he believed in."

The convoy was en route to the district of Khakriz in northwestern Kandahar province when it struck the IED - an ever-present threat in Canada's ongoing battle with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Caswell was providing security for the convoy as it travelled along a secondary road 40 kilometres north of the city of Kandahar when it was struck.

"Without security there can be no development in Afghanistan, and thanks to soldiers like Trooper Caswell, we are making significant progress," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that offered Canada's condolences to the Caswell family.

"He has left a valuable legacy and we will be forever grateful for the ultimate sacrifice he has made for our country."

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor also offered their own words of comfort to the family, and echoed the sentiment that Caswell was doing important work in Afghanistan.

"I speak not only for our party but all Canadians when I say that we greatly appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice (soldiers) undertake on our behalf to help the people of Afghanistan and bring stability to the region," Dion said.

Canadian forces have been in Khakriz working with the Afghan National Army in Operation Adalat, an offensive against insurgents in the northern sector of Canada's command area - a place where Canadian forces have already suffered heavy losses.

Last year, an IED killed four Canadians in the neighbouring district of Sha Wali Kot. Until recently, Canadian forces had been slowly pulling back from the region.

"The Taliban have consistently demonstrated their disregard for peace and improvements to the quality of life for those Afghan citizens that desire peace," O'Connor said.

"We are making a difference and the Government of Canada stands proudly with our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen as they strive to protect Canadians, our interests and our values."

Born in Bowmanville, Ont., Caswell grew up in Clarington - an hour's drive east of Toronto - and later lived with his mother in nearby Whitby, as well as the southwestern Ontario border city of Sarnia. When he turned 12, Darryl moved to Clarington to live with his father and stepmother.

"He just kept wanting to live with his dad. He took to it like a fish to a worm," Christine Caswell said. "He and his dad had a special bond."

After high school, Caswell enrolled in the Police Foundations program at Sir Stanford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., before joining the Canadian military in 2004.

The Canadian Press 2007