Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group (November 27, 2006)

Soldier son pays tribute to fallen father Andrew Thomson

CFB PETAWAWA, Ont. - Pte. Robert Girouard Jr.'s voice cracked a few times during Wednesday's eulogy for his personal hero, but it didn't break. He stood tall at the podium, itself a tribute to his fallen regimental sergeant major.
''He was an example to his men and peers, and nothing less than in idol to myself,'' said the 23-year-old member of 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. ''He was over there to keep his family here safe. Rest in peace Dad, you've earned it.''

Girouard's father, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, was killed Nov. 27 when a suicide bomber attacked his Bison armoured vehicle on a highway near Kandahar. The popular regimental sergeant major of 1RCR is the highest-ranked enlisted Canadian serviceman to die in Afghanistan. The Bison's driver, 36-year-old Cpl. Albert Storm, of Fort Erie, Ont., was also killed.

About 1,000 soldiers and civilians attended Girouard's funeral at a regimental building on the base. The two-hour service highlighted ''Bobby'' as a hopelessly devoted husband, proud father, longtime minor hockey coach and feared defenceman, and a dedicated and professional soldier who believed in the Afghan mission.
''He was the glue that kept the battle group motivated and kept morale high,'' said Maj. Peter Scott of 1RCR. ''He was idolized by all. Everyone from all ranks looked up to him.''

As 1RCR's appointed regimental sergeant major, Girouard was a sort of father figure for enlisted soldiers, responsible for overseeing their well-being and discipline while also forming a close partnership with commanding officers. His professionalism and personality made him a beloved figure with both groups at CFB Petawawa. Several troops stood silently in front of the simple altar of photos and flowers after the service, wiping away tears while bowed in silent prayer. The deadly attack occurred during an escort mission to the nearby Panjawaii region for Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, the RCR's commanding officer.

From Afghanistan, Lavoie sent an emotional message about his ''confidante, adviser and friend,'' read aloud during the funeral. He said the regiment's command posts across southern Afghanistan ''fell silent'' with grief the morning of Girouard's death. ''He took care of his soldiers, and died doing it,'' Lavoie wrote. ''They loved and respected him. He would want us to finish the job, and we will.''

Originally from Bathurst, N.B., Girouard enlisted in 1979. He was appointed regimental sergeant major in 2005 and arrived in Afghanistan in August as part of Operation Archer. He previously served in Bosnia, West Germany and Norway. Girouard is survived by wife Jacqueline and three children: Robert Jr., daughter Jocelyn, 21, and son Michel, 20 - also planning a military career as an air force pilot.

Girouard was interred at Beechwood National Military Cemetery in Ottawa.