OROMOCTO, N.B. -- The deaths of two more Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have hit at the heart of this small New Brunswick military town.
Trooper Patrick James Pentland, 23, grew up in Geary, a village just on the outskirts of Oromocto. His father, Jim, was a career soldier proud to see his son follow in his footsteps.
But yesterday, as he absorbed the shocking news of his son's death, Mr. Pentland gathered with his wife Gabi and elder son Tony at their modest home in Geary to mourn their loss.
"They are deeply sorrowed, just exhausted and are devastated by the news," said family friend Lisa Greenwood.
In a statement released through the Canadian Forces yesterday, the Pentland family spoke of their loss.
"Pat was a proud, professional soldier, who followed in the footsteps of his father, serving with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. From a young age, Pat was set on becoming a soldier.
"Pat was the youngest son of Jim and Gabi. Born in Lahr, Germany, and growing up in Oromocto, Pat was military through and through, and was proud to wear his father's cap badge with the Dragoons.
"Also important, was the guidance provided by Lynne Hastings, helping him through his studies and in life.
In the community, shock quickly gave way to anger and questions about Canada's role in Afghanistan,
"I never really paid too much attention to the war until I heard about the guys from CFB Gagetown getting hit, and then today at work I hear about my friend," said Justin Carr, 23, a school buddy of Patrick. "And that's when it actually struck me. I'm angry. I don't think they have to go over there. It's stupid."
Others in the community, despite their strong support for the soldiers and families, also spoke out against Canada's military presence.
Dwayne Grasse, 55, a civilian who is now retired after working 35 years at the Gagetown base, asked why Canadians should be losing their lives for a conflict in which they will have little impact.
"The Canadian people just don't want our soldiers over there. . . . Everyone you talk to says it. . . . I've worked with soldiers all my life. They fight and live to protect Canada. They go and that's their duty. But myself, I don't like them being over there. It puts too much strain on the family. . . If they were helping to stop all that fighting -- but it's not working."
At the Oromocto High School that Patrick attended, teachers and students were also grieving.
His high-school art teacher Kathryn Downe praised Patrick, whom she remembered as a quiet, hard-working but mostly passionate student. She said she has yet to grasp fully the depth of the void left by the young soldier's death.
"A time like this is horribly tragic and very, very hard on the community. But as a community, it is amazing how strong the community is. But that will never take place of the vacancy that is left."