Capt. Nichola Goddard, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (May 17, 2006)

Goddard a soldier — and so much more
Parents recall loving daughter
Friends called `Care Bear'

May 19, 2006. 12:20 PM

Calgary— A "Care Bear" with a gun who loved her country, her family and her pets, Capt. Nichola Goddard was well aware of the risks of being a professional soldier in a war zone.

She was a conscientious, fun-loving, dedicated Canadian soldier who believed deeply in Canada's role in Afghanistan, her parents said yesterday, a day after the 26-year-old artillery captain was killed by Taliban fighters.

She was the first Canadian female to die by enemy fire — but that's not the way she would have wanted to be remembered, her family said.

To them, she'll be remembered as a woman with a huge smile and a big heart who often called home to check on her two cats and two dogs, and who dreamed of running her own kennel when she left the army.

"Our daughter has been portrayed in the media as a strong leader, an officer who cared for her soldiers, and one who believed in the importance of her work in the Canadian mission in Afghanistan," her father Tim Goddard said yesterday. "She was all those things but she was also so much more.

"Nichola lived her life fully," her father told a news conference held at Calgary University, where he is an associate dean. "She died too young, but she died doing something she believed was important, something she was good at, something she loved doing, and surrounded by people she enjoyed and respected. We shall miss her."

Goddard, a forward artillery observer with the 1st Canadian Royal Horse Artillery, whose job was to send target information back to the firing crews, was killed around 7 p.m. Wednesday during a fierce firefight with Taliban insurgents about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar.

She is the 16th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since Canada committed troops to the war-torn country in 2002. Combat roles have been open to women in the Canadian military since 1990.

Reading from a prepared statement entitled "Not Just a Soldier," Tim and Sally Goddard, their eyes red from crying, took turns before the microphones and cameras to tell the world about their beloved daughter.

The volunteer scout leader and faithful member of the Anglican church. A selfless leader who agreed to shave her hair to raise money for cancer research and relished the spectacle as the soldiers she commanded gleefully auctioned off the right to wield the razor.

A kid who once won the prize for being the best Dene speaker in kindergarten in Black Lake an Indian reserve in Northern Saskatchewan.

The owner of a bedevilling smile that once flashed could persuade her parents into the back yard for hours to turn the rope so she could learn to skip.

The Goddards last spoke to their daughter on Monday night, when she called to say she wouldn't be able to talk to her father on his birthday two days later because she was going out on a mission.

A mission she would never return from.

"She was anxious to get out of the Kandahar base, as she was far happier in the hills, and was keen to get on with the job," her father said. "She was never a paper pusher. She wanted to be a combat officer. She was far happier outside the wire with her men."

`Nichola lived her life fully. She died too young, but she died doing ... something she loved' The oldest of their three daughters, Nichola was born in Mandang, in Papua New Guinea, where the Goddards were teaching at the time.

Tim Goddard recalled fondly yesterday how his daughter's personality, toughness and love of the outdoors was fashioned in such remote settings as northern Saskatchewan and Baffin Island.

She was an avid runner and cross country skier who competed in a biathlon.

By the time she graduated from high school, she had attended seven different schools.

"She often joked that the one reason she joined the army was for the structure," Sally Goddard said of Nichola, who joined the military at age 18 while they were living in Nova Scotia.

"Nichola had a huge smile and an even bigger heart," Tim Goddard said in describing his daughter as an ardent athlete who once gave up a chance to win a ski race to help a fellow racer who had collapsed due to hypothermia.

"After that, her friends called her `Care Bear,'" he said of the moniker she carried with her into adulthood and to Afghanistan, where she established herself as a strong leader, and an officer who cared for her soldiers.

Those sentiments were echoed yesterday by her husband Jason Beam in a telephone interview from Shilo, Man., the Canadian Forces base where Goddard was stationed prior to leaving for Afghanistan in January. And despite his very personal pain, Beam says he remains a firm believer that Canadian soldiers need to stay in Afghanistan to help bring peace to the country. Nichola would want it that way, too, he said.

"I don't think we should turn, run and hide because we've suffered a couple of casualties," Beam told the Toronto Star. "I'm very glad to hear that the mission has been extended."

His wife would not care for all the fuss that is being made about her being the first Canadian female killed in combat. She had fought hard to overcome stereotyping in her work, he said.

"She would like to be remembered simply as a soldier doing her job."

"I am very proud of her," Beam said of his wife of three years.