Struggling Monday to come to terms with Sgt. Stachnik's death, Ms. Mitton and the soldier's friends described him as a nice, quiet man, a loving partner and a proud soldier.

"He was such a strong and sweet man,” Ms. Mitton wrote in a statement Monday. "He had strong morals, values, ethics and they showed in everything he did."

The couple had put off discussing a wedding date until February, when Sgt. Stachnik was scheduled to end the six-month tour of duty that he began three weeks ago.

He was planning to return home in October for a short leave to see Ms. Mitton. “We were just looking forward to seeing each other,” she said through sobs in an telephone interview.

Sgt. Stachnik joined the Canadian Forces in the 1990s. In 1997, he helped fight the Winnipeg flood that forced thousands from their homes. “He said it was times like this when it was worth serving your country,” Ms. Mitton wrote.

"This guy was so good, and it's not just because I was engaged to him," Mitton said. "He was the kind of guy who'd pick up litter on the sidewalk. He was just a good person."

Stachnik's family lives in Alberta where he grew up. Always the attentive son, Stachnik — who served with 2 Combat Engineer Regiment — called home to speak with his parents days before his death. Even though he was based in Petawawa, Ont., he took every opportunity to fly home and see his parents and younger sister.

"People need to know he was just like you or I," Mitton said of Stachnik. "You see these big tough soldiers — and he was proud of (his work) — but he was just a good Canadian citizen. He was going to be a fine example of a father."