KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Soldiers, some their faces still raw with grief, gathered Monday at Kandahar Airfield to pay tribute to a friend and colleague, Master Cpl. Charles-Philippe Michaud, the latest Canadian victim of Afghanistan's insurgent war.
About 150 comrades of the fallen soldier attended the brief morning ceremony at battlegroup headquarters.
With heads bowed, they listened as Padre Normand Cholette said a prayer for the 28-year-old Michaud, who died in Quebec City hospital on Saturday, more than a week after he was gravely injured by a landmine in southern Afghanistan.
Cholette said everyone in Kandahar had assumed the soldier, despite his terrible injuries, was going to pull through, and word of his death hit hard.
"All his colleagues were sure that everything was going to be OK," Cholette said.
"Learning the news was a shock; it's not easy for the troops."
Michaud was hurt when he stepped on a landmine during a foot patrol in the Panjwaii district on June 23. He was flown to Germany and then on to Canada for emergency treatment, but he never regained consciousness.
His death, the fourth in less than a month, was announced as the family of Cpl. Nick Bulger, 30, killed on Friday by an improvised explosive, prepared to receive his body at a repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton, Ont., on Monday.
Nicknamed Chuck, Michaud was on his third operational tour and his second in Afghanistan. The member of the 2nd Batallion, Royal 22nd Regiment based at Valcartier.
Cholette said Michaud was known to be dedicated and disciplined, and in strong physical shape. He was faithful in his duty and much appreciated, the padre added.
"We're going through a time of mourning here," Cholette said.
"It's important for all the troops to emphasize the fact that we appreciate him."
Among those attending the ceremony in the hot morning sunshine was Canadian Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, senior commander in Kandahar province and the battlegroup commander, Lt.-Col. Jocelyn Paul.
Moments after, several soldiers who had driven in climbed aboard their armoured vehicles and rolled back out of Kandahar Airfield to their forward operating bases.
The deaths come amid an intensification of both insurgent attacks on coalition troops, and a major offensive by the U.S. in neighbouring Helmand province.
Also Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the main coalition base at Kandahar Airfield, killing two Afghan civilians and injuring 14 other people, including two Afghan soldiers.