ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Her eyes welling with tears as she contemplated a future without her husband, the grieving widow of one of the three latest soldiers killed in Afghanistan bravely came forward Wednesday and said she all but knew the man she called her “powerhouse” would die serving his country.
The recently married couple, who have four children, talked at length about death before he deployed in September, said Mishelle Brown, wife of Warrant Officer Dennis Brown.
“I was expecting this. I was prepared for it. Dennis and I talked about it often,” she said, adding she told an interviewer months ago: “I expect my husband to die; I just hope he doesn’t.”
Brown was a reservist with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment in southern Ontario who served as a police special constable in civilian life from 2001 in charge of prisoner escorts.
He was killed by an explosive on Tuesday along with Cpl. Kenneth O’Quinn, who was based at CFB Petawawa, Ont., and Cpl. Dany Fortin, an air force member based in Bagotville, Que. Their deaths brought to 111 the number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002.
Despite the obvious dangers, Brown said the husband she described as her hero and “powerhouse” gladly volunteered to head halfway across the world.
“I supported him every step of the way – and I still do,” Brown said, choking back tears.
“When I asked him why he wanted to go on this tour, Dennis said, ‘If we don’t get them in their backyard, they’re surely to get us in ours.’ “
The reservist leaves behind three sons, Mackenzie, 12, Owen, 9, and Benjamin, 7, as well as his wife’s daughter, Jenna, 12, and his parents Ed and Sadie Brown.
His distraught widow, who spoke with him for more than an hour the day he died from a roadside bomb blast in the Arghandab district, said he did not die in vain.
He did what he wanted, and loved what he was doing.
“There are lots of things you can’t beat in life,” Brown said in response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent comment that the Taliban could not be beaten.
“You can’t beat child pornography, you can’t beat crime. But do you stop? Do you give up? Absolutely not.”
The other two soldiers were hailed by their home provinces and colleagues.
O’Quinn was born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., and spent his childhood there, the provincial government said in a release.
“Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the families and friends of these three valiant men,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.
“Personally, and on behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I extend condolences to the family of Cpl. O’Quinn. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and those of his comrades.”
Fortin, 29, had been in Afghanistan since last September and was set to return in April.
“He took to heart his job as a soldier,” Lt.-Col. Paul Prevost told a news conference at CFB Bagotville, about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
“In Bagotville, as in Afghanistan, he was one of those whose leadership contributed to motivating his peers.”
Prevost said he had met Fortin’s mother and that his death was proving very difficult for her.
“But she was very proud of her son,” he said. “Dany was doing what he had dreamed of doing.”
Fortin was originally from Baie-Comeau, Que.
Brown called her husband her “dream come true.”
“Nobody can take that away from me,” she said. “No roadside bomb can take that away from me. It can take away my future with him but it can’t take away my past.”
Warrant Officer Steve Ward said believed that the military was making a difference in the lives of the Afghan people.
“I know Dennis would want us to remember him not as a victim but as a soldier – a volunteer soldier that believed in the mission in Afghanistan,” he said.
“He understood the risk and shouldered that risk in the finest tradition of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment.”