Pte. Nathan Lloyd Smith (April 17 2002)

April 21, 2002 Page: A1 Section:News Edition:MET Length:553 Friends made a solemn pact Pte. Michael Frank, his eyes swollen and red-rimmed from crying, talked about the special pact he and his best friend, Nathan Smith, made before shipping out to Kandahar.

"We didn't tell our wives about it, but if anything happened to Nathan I would bring him home, and he would do the same for me," Frank said, waiting while the hearse carrying his buddy was stopped briefly outside the Toronto morgue.

"So that's why I'm here now. You bring your own home. It's not exactly the greatest of times."

The 24-year-old native of Barrie, Ont., was one of five "escorts" who flew home from Afghanistan with the bodies of their four fallen comrades, Pte. Smith, 27, and Pte. Richard Green, 22, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, 25, and Sgt. Marc Leger, 29.

The bodies and five escorts - Frank, Pte. Simon Hughes, Cpl. Kent Schmidt and Jan Rube, and Sgt. Ken Dunn - arrived at CFB Trenton yesterday morning aboard a gunmetal-gray Canadian Forces Airbus.

Following a ceremony at the base, the funeral cortege - four hearses, two limousines and a military police car - travelled to Toronto where they were joined by five Toronto police cruisers for the trip up Bay St. to the coroner's building on Grosvenor St.

Frank said everyone in Smith's platoon knew of the pact between the two friends, and afterwards they asked him to "bring him home."

Still wearing his green battle fatigues, his army boots caked in mud, Frank talked about the grief he felt when he learned his long-time friend had been killed. The two friends had been making plans to finish off the basement of Frank's home, north of Toronto, and then fill it with memorabilia from their military experiences.

Frank smiled briefly when he explained that although he and his friend used the term wife, both were referring to each other's fiancees.

"I can't even tell you the time when I found out," he continued. "It was like one in the morning Zulu time. When I found out I was just sick. It made me ill. You don't know what to say. You don't know how to react."

Frank and Hughes, an escort for his friend, Green, emerged briefly from the hearses that were parked in a laneway outside the morgue, waiting their turns to drive the remains into an underground landing at the coroner's building.

Both men, wearing black armbands, expressed their thanks to all the support and sympathy they have received from fellow Canadians since their friends were killed.

"It has been really special," Frank said.

"Just excellent," added Hughes, 32. "And we appreciate it very much."

During the past 17 hours, during the flight from Afghanistan and the two-hour road trip to Toronto from Trenton, Frank said his mind has been filled with thoughts about what he will say to Smith's family, and his friend's fiancee, Jodi.

"I've been having a hard time, because we were friends in the military and in our civilian lives," Frank said. "Your first instinct is, 'I've lost my friend' and I wonder how his fiancee is doing. Then I thought about what I would say to the families, both his and Jodi's.

"A million things go through your head. I thought about why it happened. You just wish it wasn't them. You wish it never happened."

OYSTER POND - Oyster Pond added a fresh name to its cenotaph Wednesday in a ceremony nearly one year after Pte. Nathan Smith died in Afghanistan. Most of the inscriptions on this small Eastern Shore community's honour roll harken back to the conflicts fought by men who could have been the age of Smith's grandfathers, or even great-grandfathers.
A bagpiper played a melancholy tune yesterday as people in the large crowd dabbed away tears for the 26-year-old. Smith, of nearby Ostrea Lake, who died last April 17 in friendly fire that killed four Canadian soldiers, including two Nova Scotians, and wounded eight more during a live-fire exercise near their Kandahar base.

A flood of emotions come back,his father, Lloyd Smith, said after the ceremony.

But it's also a great honour for our son to be among such distinguished people. I think every man on that plaque deserves our undying loyalty, because they paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Many of the young soldier's relatives and friends attended the event, held a stone's throw from two schools Nathan Smith attended as a boy. He was a friend to everybody, his father said. I don't know if he ever had an enemy in this world, and I'm sure he won't have any in the next. Lloyd Smith said he has shed many tears in the past two weeks watching the war in Iraq unfold.

I look at it, obviously, with a new set of eyes because of what happened to our son,he said. But I can tell you my heart goes out to each and every one of those family members on both sides of that conflict who lost a loved one. Because war is not nice, and it takes away the best, the youngest and the brightest.

Nathan Smith