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A Wonderful Eulogy

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  • A Wonderful Eulogy

    Arndt remembered as soldier with hard jaw, soft eyes, who loved to laugh

    Scott Hornby, CanWest News Service; Edmonton Journal

    Published: Monday, August 07, 2006

    EDMONTON -- Pte. Gordon Legarie gazed into the distance, tears in his eyes, remembering how his friend Cpl. Raymond Arndt met his wife a few years ago at a military ball.

    "Darcia was supposed to be my date that night," Legarie said, a smile flitting across his lips. "But then she saw Ray and knew he was the man she wanted, so she went for him while one of my friends distracted me."

    Cpl. Arndt, 32, a reservist from the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, died Saturday when the light armoured vehicle he was travelling in as part of a convoy was involved in a head-on collision with a large truck in Afghanistan.

    About 15 fellow reservists from the Eddies met on Sunday to remember their friend and brother in arms.

    Three other Loyal Edmonton Regiment soldiers were also injured in the crash: Cpl. Jared Gagnon of Sherwood Park suffered head injuries and was in serious condition; Cpl. Ashley Van Leeuwen of St. Paul is recovering from a broken leg, broken ankle and a broken rib, while Pte. Adam Keen of Edmonton has returned to duty.

    Despite the stolen date, Legarie and Arndt remained close friends. In 2003, they fought forest fires together in B.C., and when Legarie decided to enrol in the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace and Technology in October of this year, Arndt would send him letters of support from Afghanistan.

    "He always, always, always looked after his troops before he looked after himself," Legarie said. "Whenever you needed something he was there. He never stopped smiling, and he was always upbeat."

    This was Arndt's first tour, although he'd always wanted a chance to serve his country, said Cpl. Grant Trudel, of the 3rd battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Trudel said he's going to miss getting together with the Arndts for their regular Saturday barbecues.

    "They were hoping to start a family when he got home," Trudel said, his voice breaking.

    A fellow soldier serving in Afghanistan with the regiment sent his fellow Eddies in Edmonton an e-mail with his thoughts about Arndt.

    "He had a hard jaw, but soft eyes," the soldier said in the e-mail. "He was always up for a joke or a laugh."

    And Arndt's wife Darcia was always on his mind, he said.

    "He loved her very much and always diligently called her every week, as well wrote to her on MSN every day when she got home from work. He always made sure to protect her from fear."

    In the letter he describes the other soldiers who were injured in the collision.

    Gagnon is a stubborn little scrapper who a talent for poker, Greg wrote, while Van Leeuwen " ... is one of the older dogs in the outfit... A proud individual who loves his country more than any man I've ever seen."

    Van Leeuwen's father said his son suffered breaks in his ankle, leg and ribs in the crash, and is now recovering in a military hospital in Ramstein Germany and expects to be flown home soon.

    "Ashley phoned us himself on Saturday morning," Bill Van Leeuwen said from his home in St. Paul on Sunday. "He's in good spirits."

    Retired Maj. David Hass, who serves as the curator of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment's museum and helped form its 24-member pipe band, described how Arndt joined the band as a drummer two years ago.

    Despite having never played drum before, he was soon one of its key members. To help get the band off the ground, Arndt would sell hamburgers and hotdogs to raise funds.

    Before Arndt's death, the last time that the Eddies lost a soldier during an operation was on April 25, 1945 during the Second World War, when Pte. G. Feschuk was killed while on patrol in Holland, Hass said. The Eddies date back to 1908. Twenty-seven members were sent to Afghanistan. The 200-member unit is the only militia infantry unit left based in Edmonton.

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    Edmonton Journal

    © CanWest News Service 2006

    Canadian soldiers carry the body of Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt into the belly of a Hercules aircraft Monday morning at Kandahar air field for the long journey back home. Photograph by : Donald McArthur

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