KANATA, Ont. — As they prepare to bury their first born, Cpl. Jason Patrick Warren’s parents are comforted by memories of his infectious laugh and the knowledge that he died doing his part to change Afghanistan.
“From a mother’s heart I’m devastated by the loss, but I have such wonderful memories,” Debbie Warren told The Canadian Press in an interview at a funeral parlour near her home, west of Ottawa.
Not far from her thoughts these days is her son’s broad smile and bellicose laugh.
“It was just very contagious, very rough.”
She also holds dear their last conversation, just two days before his death, in which Debbie was able to tell her son one final time how much she loved him.
The 29-year-old reservist and Cpl. Francisco Gomez, 44, of Edmonton were killed July 22 when a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives beside the Bison armoured vehicle that Gomez was driving.
They were on the tail end of a large convoy returning from fighting west of Kandahar.
Clutching a tissue, Debbie Warren described her son’s unending optimism and love for country that propelled him to follow family tradition by joining the military.
Debbie Warren’s father is a Second World War veteran and her daughter is a corporal who has served two tours in Afghanistan. The Warrens were fully aware of the risks associated with their son’s mission in Afghanistan.
But they take comfort in the knowledge that he was doing what he loved.
Working in psychological operations, Jason Warren used his warm personality to foster attitude changes among Afghan civilians.
“He loved the idea of being able to go into places and be able to counter the negative impact of the Taliban,” his mother said proudly.
And he was good at it. Even as a youngster growing up in Quebec City, he made friends easily and was very perceptive.
Each Christmas, he knew exactly what to give, after assembling little clues given unconsciously by family members, Debbie Warren said.
Gerry Warren said he had a close bond with his son, admiring his devotion, loyalty and love.
He said Jason had hoped to change the hearts and minds of Afghanis and give them an opportunity to try to resolve issues without resorting to violence.
“Like a true Canadian he would first put his hand out to see what he could do to help,” Gerry Warren said, sporting a Canadian flag pin on his shirt.
“But then if that man would stand up against him and be aggressive and fight, then he would fight that man.”
Jason Warren shielded his parents from much of the horror of his experiences. But his parents said he was able to open up completely with his sister Rachelle, whom he followed into the military.
“Gerry and I hardly understood when they spoke because they had all these expressions (about their experiences),” Debbie Warren said. “They just had a great time.”
Jason Warren is also survived by a brother, Stephen, and his sibling’s wife.
Warren’s six-month deployment was slated to end in August. He served with the Royal 22nd Regiment in Bosnia in 2002 and had hoped to return to Afghanistan before he became the first member of the Black Watch Regiment to die in action since 1970.
As much as he loved his family, Jason Warren also found a special bond with friends at the Black Watch Regiment, his mother said.
“The Black Watch is like a family,” she said, tearfully recalling the support they have given the family.
The outpouring of affection for their son has been overwhelming, the parents said. They enjoyed learning more about their son from messages left by friends on an online condolence book.
They were particularly heartened by the warm words of Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a telephone conversation and the thoughtfulness shown by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean at Thursday’s repatriation ceremony.
While Gerry Warren is touched by the support shown by Canadians, he expressed frustration with recent polls that suggest Canadians are growing weary of the war.
“We had no choice but to be there,” he said defiantly.
“It would be a great cowardly stain on Canada if we pulled out right now.
“We know that if we let Afghanistan go it will become a cesspool for training terrorism and we’re going to feel the impact of it at home.”
Quebec Lt.-Gov. Lise Thibault will be among the dignitaries who will participate in Warren’s funeral on Wednesday at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, the Black Watch chapel, in Montreal.
Warren and Gomez were the 18th and 19th Canadian soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002. They will be buried in Ottawa on Thursday at the Canadian Forces National Military Cemetery.