EDMONTON—Soldiers who worked with fallen soldier Cpl. Francisco Gomez remembered him yesterday as a soft-spoken man who nonetheless made a resounding impact on those around him.
“Cpl. Gomez, just like they said in the service, was the quietest guy, you know, never had much to say,” said friend Cpl. Richard Haggarty, who attended a private funeral in Edmonton with Gomez’s family.
“But when he did, he could quiet a room. Everybody in the room would stop and listen to what he had to say. And what he said, everybody thought about.”
Gomez, 44, a career soldier, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on July 22, along with Jason Warren, 29, of the Black Watch, the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada based in Montreal. Eight other soldiers were injured.
The plaintive wail of bagpipes and columns of officers marching in unison signalled the start of the military funeral procession.
But the pipes were soon drowned out by the rumble of a light-armoured vehicle pulling Gomez’s flag-draped casket behind it. The eight-wheeled, dull green vehicle is similar to the one he was driving the day he died.
In front of the vehicle, a brown horse led by a member of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse — Gomez’s unit — carried two black boots facing backward in the stirrups, a sign of a fallen comrade.
Those who knew him called Gomez, who never married and had no children, the perfect soldier, completely dedicated to his job.
His commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Pascal Demers, said an uncle told the service why his nephew continued to enlist in the military.
“Francisco would say, `Someone has to protect the children from the bullies,’ ” he said.
“And I think that gives an idea of what type of man Francisco was.”
“He really enjoyed his job, he loved it,” said Peter Cochrane, a retired soldier who worked with Gomez for 19 years.
He said that Gomez, who served in Somalia, Bosnia and Cyprus, could easily have advanced above the rank of corporal, but didn’t want to be promoted.
“That is the working rank of the military. He was a soldier’s soldier. He was professional all the time.”
Gomez and Warren were the 18th and 19th Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002.