Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer (April 17, 2002)
He was a brave soldier with a strong sense of duty.
He was the exuberant young man with the ready smile. He was a kid from Regent Park who made good.
But most of all, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, who would have celebrated his 25th birthday in July, was remembered yesterday as a devoted brother and son whose death has left a gaping hole in the lives of his loved ones.
"This tragedy has pierced our hearts and shattered our souls," Carolyn Dyer told the 400 mourners who packed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Broadview Ave. to bid a final farewell to her older brother. "Ainsworth was able to do more than make you laugh, he was able to make your heart dance."
As his grieving sister spoke, about 150 of Dyer's comrades in full military regalia looked on. They included members from the two units in which he served, the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton and Toronto's 48th Highlanders out of Moss Park Armoury.
Another 100 soldiers stood at attention in the church parking lot, paying their last respects to their fallen colleague. About 200 people stood in a park across the street from the church, some waving small Canadian flags as they listened over loud speakers to the soldier's eEulogy.
"I don't know the family, but I had to come and show my support," said Helen Giraudel of Scarborough. "Why did this have to happen?"
Dyer's family, friends and colleagues celebrated his exemplary, but short, life and mourned for his lost hopes and dreams; the engineering degree he hoped to pursue while continuing to serve in the military; the beautiful fiancee, Jocelyn Van Sloten, he planned to marry and start a family with.
"We are all saddened. It's hard to comprehend why this took place," the church's bishop, Stephen Brown, told mourners. "Ainsworth was a brave brave man who loved his country dearly. He loved his fellowman. He loved freedom and democracy."
Dyer's sister Suzette Wright, 31, said it was difficult not to feel angry about the circumstance of her brother's death. "He should never have died the way he died. If he had died fighting (the enemy) we could have grieved a different way," Wright said.
Dyer, along with three other Canadian soldiers, was killed when a U.S. pilot mistakenly dropped a bomb on them during a live ammunition training exercise. A U.S. military official was among the mourners yesterday.
Dyer's comrades tried to find some solace in his passing.
"He's traded in his wings for a bigger set," said Cpl. Yan Berube, who serve with Dyer in Afghanistan and had the painful task of escorting his body back to Canada.
"The biggest honour I could ever have was to bring my friend home," Berube told the mourners, who included Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, retired Gen. Lewis McKenzie, Premier Ernie Eves, Mayor Mel Lastman and Police Chief Julian Fantino.
Dyer moved to Regent Park in Toronto with his father, Paul, as a young teenager after his parents split up and his mother remained in Montreal with his other siblings. Yesterday, his mother, Agatha Dawkins, mourned the son she said she was separated from by geography, but not by emotion.
"I loved him very much. I knew he loved me," his mother said. "I didn't know how I would get the strength to hold on through this day, but when I see how much he was honoured, how much he was respected, I'm very, very proud of him."
Many spoke of the special bond Dyer had with his father. He was "always his father's baby boy," Christopher Chaggares, a member of the Dyers' church, told the mourners. "Ainsworth towered over his father, but he always looked up to him."
Ryan Norman, a Mormon missionary, first met the Dyers about six years ago when the father and son got involved in the church.
"He loved his father so much," Norman said, recounting that he received a phone call from Dyer just before he left for Afghanistan. "He asked me to take care of his father."
Paul Dyer solemnly followed his son's flag-draped casket as it was carried by pall bearers from Dyer's Edmonton unit.
Dyer's beret was presented to his father at the grave site after Dyer was buried with full military honours at the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery. White doves were released into the sky and a lone bugler played the "Last Post" before the rifle shots of an honour guard crackled through the air.
Dyer's fellow soldiers formed a procession and in pairs gave one last salute to their fallen comrade.
"He was a standout person," said retired Sgt. Oswald Reece, who trained Dyer as a young recruit. "He was always ready to step up to the plate. He was the perfect soldier."