Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede  (May 31, 2007)

Canadian Press

CFB GAGETOWN -- A Canadian military photographer who died two weeks ago in Afghanistan was remembered Tuesday as a professional whose photographs will live on forever.
Hundreds of people gathered at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for the funeral of Master Cpl. Darrell Priede.

Priede, 30, died May 30 along with five Americans and a Briton when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter they were flying in was shot down in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province.

Before the crash, he was photographing coalition forces trying to capture a valley from insurgents.

Col. Ryan Jestin, commander of CFB Gagetown, said Priede was highly regarded for his contributions to various in-house publications, including Army News.

"After we're all gone, (others) will be able to look at his pictures from Afghanistan and his pictures from CFB Gagetown," Jestin said after the service. "What a great professional he was. What a great man he was, and we're going to miss him."

Priede, who had been in Afghanistan for less than six weeks, had recently remarked to his superiors that he believed his job was one of the safest to be had in a war zone.

"Nobody is safe - it's a risky business," said Brig.-Gen. Rick Parsons, commander of Land Force Atlantic.

Parsons attended the funeral service and praised the work of Priede and others involved in the Afghan mission.

"The work that's done by Army News teams, the work that's done by photo techs, and by everybody that's involved in the mission ... they all contribute to an end goal which is to provide the very best possible assistance they can in achieving the mission and providing the stability that we need in Afghanistan," he told reporters outside the chapel.

Roxanne Priede said her son, who was born in Burlington, Ont., and raised in Grand Forks, B.C., volunteered to go to Afghanistan and was eager to capture images of Canada's mission there.

"He really wanted to do something that would show more of what the military stood for," she said in an earlier interview from her home in Grand Forks.

Some of the photos the airman took are on display at the provincial reconstruction team base outside Kandahar.

Priede entered the military in 1996 as a gunner, later served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, and applied to become a military photographer while on his second tour in the Balkans.

His funeral service was held in St. Luke's chapel at Gagetown, not far from where Priede lived with his wife, Angela, in the town of Oromocto.

The chapel, which can hold about 400 people, was full. Another chapel on the base, which holds 600, was also opened for the ceremony with an audio and video feed provided.

The private service was attended by family members and soldiers from the base.

The eulogy was delivered by Master Cpl. Mike Selig, a friend of Priede's.

Rev. Greg Costen said the mood of the service was sombre but with a few lighter moments as Selig recalled moments of Priede's life.

"The theme that kept emerging with the family and through the proceedings was Darrell's smile that could light up a room," said Costen. "He was the kind of person that seemed to have a personality that could bring light to a space."

Jestin, who is about to retire from the military, has been visibly shaken by the deaths of soldiers from his base. He told reporters there are no words to adequately express his feelings.

"Long after I'm gone here, I'll be remembering all those soldiers ... all the names of the ones we've lost during the last four months over there, and I just pray there's absolutely no more," he said.

Priede's death brought to 56 the number of Canadian soldiers and airmen killed in Afghanistan since 2002. But before Priede's family and friends paid their last respects, the toll increased to 57.

Trooper Darryl Caswell, 25, of Clarington, Ont., was killed Monday by a roadside bomb north of Kandahar City, in an area outside where the Canadians normally operate.

Caswell, a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, based at CFB Petawawa in eastern Ontario, was the third Canadian soldier to die in as many weeks in Afghanistan. He was helping resupply troops involved in an operation to establish security in Kandahar province.

Two other Canadians soldiers were hurt by the blast. Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Canada's military in Afghanistan, said they were reported in good condition.