Sgt. Robert Allan Short (October 2, 2003)
PEMBROKE - A trumpeter's mournful rendition of Last Post and a bagpiper's lament set the tone as more than 2,000 people turned out to honour Sgt. Robert Short, 42, and Cpl. Robbie Beerenfenger, 29.
The men, from nearby CFB Petawawa, were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday when the jeep they were in struck an explosive device.
Canadian military officials have new evidence that suggests the blast was a deliberate attack, and that at least one, and possibly three, anti-tank mines planted in a creek bed killed the soldiers. Investigators suggested the mines - one a Soviet-made TM-57 anti-tank mine "designed to kill or immobilize a main battle tank" - could have been planted or armed within 21/2 hours before the blast.
Kabul police, aided by Canadian, British and German forces, yesterday arrested a man they believe is a local terrorist leader who may be responsible for the explosion.
Abu Bakr is Kabul-area commander of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, or HIG, described by the Canadian contingent's top soldier as the third-largest terrorist organization in Afghanistan, after Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Bakr has also been linked to the suicide bombing of a bus last June, in which four German soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded.
"We have indications he is under orders to orchestrate attacks on ISAF personnel using rockets and mines," said Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force under which the Canadians are operating.
"Should this turn out to be conclusively an attack, we may well have apprehended the man who ordered it."
But the people who filled this town's arena to overflowing yesterday weren't looking for answers. Rather, they wanted to pay tribute to men remembered as loving fathers, crack soldiers and most of all, heroes.
"They loved what they were doing and they were brave in the execution of their duties. And for that we are so proud of, them" said Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier, commander of the army.
Reciting the words of "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian solider John McCrae, Hillier said: "To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high.
"Sgt. Short and Cpl. Beerenfenger have certainly held the torch high." And in a heartfelt tribute from Afghanistan, Lt-Col Don Denne, commanding officer of The Royal Canadian Regiment battalion group, said the 2,000 Canadian soldiers at Camp Julien in Kabul are all feeling the loss.
He remembered Beerenfenger as an "utterly dependable" man who loved his family, and had a burning desire to be a paratrooper.
Short, he said, was a selfless, devoted husband and father and "nothing less than brilliant" as a section commander.
"Everyone was hoping the mission would go smoothly," said Karen Little outside the arena yesterday. "And we're all very saddened by the deaths."