EDSON, Alta. — Close to 1,000 soldiers, friends and family packed a Royal Canadian Legion on Wednesday to remember a soldier with a quick smile and the tenacity to follow what he loved.
Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt, a reservist with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 5 when his armoured G-Wagon collided head-on with an Afghan transport truck.
“Everybody knew Ray, everybody,” said Lt.-Col. Hans Brink, Arndt’s commanding officer. “So there wasn’t anybody that didn’t know him in some capacity, didn’t have a beer with him at one time or another. So, a loss like this hits us all hard.
“He was a very good soldier. Very dedicated, hardworking. Loved to smile, loved to tell jokes.”
Among the mourners were 125 soldiers who rode buses from Edmonton to Edson, about 190 kilometres west. Another 25 soldiers drove out.
They were joined at the funeral by a dozen RCMP officers in dress red serge.
“It was standing-room only at the funeral,” said RCMP Cpl. Bruce Chomeakwich.
Colleagues recalled how Ardnt — who had one foot size six and one foot size nine — almost wasn’t admitted to the military. But he wouldn’t give up.
“Originally, it was going to keep him out of the army, and he had to prove to the medical branch that he could march with us, and do everything that a normal soldier could do,” said Brink.
Three other Loyal Edmonton reservists were injured in the crash that killed Ardnt.
Their G-Wagon was the lead vehicle in a convoy returning to Kandahar.
Cpl. Ashley Van Leeuwen of St. Paul was severely injured in the crash and was flown to a military hospital Germany.
Cpl. Jared Gagnon of Sherwood Park was also flown to hospital in Germany, while Pte. Adam Keen of Edmonton suffered minor injuries and returned to duty.
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment had 27 members in Afghanistan, including Arndt and the three injured men.
They were part of a platoon that escorts convoys to different locations, such as supply bases.
Brink said the military is looking into the crash.
“Like any accident, it’s under investigation, and that’s basically where it stands right now,” he said.
Arndt, 32, was originally from Peers, northeast of Edson.