REGINA — Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh was remembered Thursday as a valiant soldier, acutely aware of the dangers he faced in Afghanistan, but driven by a need to protect the world from the “monsters” that threaten it.
Walsh died in the war-torn country last week in what appeared to be an accidental shooting by a fellow soldier.
His death came just six days after he was re-deployed to the country for his second tour of duty and just one day after he celebrated his 33rd birthday.
Before he left, Walsh wrote a poem about the mission after the eldest of his three children, six-year-old Avery, asked him why he was going away.
Entitled “Monsters in the Dark,” it was read to the crowd of about 600 mourners who gathered at a downtown Regina church to pay their last respects.
“I know that they are out there. I will not be ignorant anymore,” the poem reads.
“Pulling the blanket over my head will not keep them from coming ashore. Instead I choose to confront them as afraid as I might be. Because if I don’t stop the monsters, our children can never be free.”
Walsh’s friend, Norman Yeo, said it was a sense of adventure and a willingness to help others that inspired the fallen soldier.
“He knew the risks involved in the operations that he was taking part in, but that didn’t stop him from helping those who needed it,” Yeo said.
“Jeff protected us here and we have comfort in knowing that he will always be watching over us from above.”
The son of an RCMP officer, Walsh knew from a very young age about putting one’s life on the line to protect others.
“Jeffrey Scott Walsh was a police kid,” Rev. Allan Higgs told the congregation. “He knew that his dad strapped on a gun to go to work each day .x .x . Jeff had developed an equal sense of duty to community and to society.”
Higgs talked about the way Walsh died.
“How or why a gun went off will take time to determine,” he said. “We do know, though, that the person responsible for that gun carries a terrible burden. Our hearts go out to that individual. Do remember him or her in your prayers.”
He also spoke directly to any doubters of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan and said the recent terrorist plot uncovered in Britain should give the country and its soldiers even more resolve.
“Those individuals need give their heads a shake,” Higgs said of anyone who doesn’t support Canada’s involvement in the war.
A military investigation is currently underway to determine what led to Walsh’s death.
Negligence will be the focus, as foul play, suicide and enemy action have all been ruled out, according to military officials.
Meanwhile, the family of Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom, 23, of Comox, B.C., issued a statement Thursday that also expressed support for the mission in Afghanistan.
“The work of the NATO forces … is not only about protecting Canada’s sovereignty — it is about making the world a better place for all,” the statement said.
“The military presence is required in Afghanistan for many reasons. The foremost that comes to our minds is the need to foster an environment where we can show the people that there is another way of life.”
Eykelenboom was killed when a suicide bomber plowed an explosives-laden pickup truck into a NATO convoy. He was the first Canadian military medic killed in action since the Korean War.
His funeral will be held Saturday.