Corporal Étienne Gonthier

News Release

Canadian Soldier Killed - Two Others Wounded in Afghanistan

CEFCOM/COMFEC NR-08.005 - January 23, 2008

OTTAWA - At approximately 1:40 p.m. local time (in Kandahar) today, one Canadian soldier who was part of a convoy was killed when the armoured vehicle he was in struck a suspected Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 35 km South-West of Kandahar City. Two Canadian soldiers were also injured.

The family of the deceased soldier have been advised but at their request, the name of the soldier is being temporarily withheld.

The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield. They are in good condition and have returned to duty. They have completed next of kin self-notification.

We have lost a fine Canadian today, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this brave soldier.

News Release

Name of Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan released

CEFCOM/COMFEC NR–08.006 - January 24, 2008

OTTAWA – Killed yesterday in Afghanistan was Corporal Étienne Gonthier, 21 year old, of 5th Combat Engineer Regiment based in Valcartier (Québec).  He was part of a team of sappers conducting route clearance ahead of a convoy in the Panjwaiyi District.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Corporal Gonthier , and with his comrades in Afghanistan who remain committed to helping Afghans improve their living conditions and build a free and democratic society.

The courage and dedication demonstrated by Corporal Gonthier in his efforts to assist the Afghan national security forces represent Canadian values in the finest tradition.  He will be greatly missed.

A photograph of Corporal Gonthier is available on the Canadian Forces Image Gallery.

News Release

Valcartier garrison grieves over combat engineer’s death in Afghanistan

5 GBMC.08.12 - January 24, 2008

Valcartier Garrison, Quebec – It is with great sorrow that all members of the 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG), particularly those of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment (5 CER), received the news of the death of Corporal Étienne Gonthier in Afghanistan.

“It was with great emotion that I was informed of the death of Corporal Étienne Gonthier, who was working to provide greater security for the afghan people. In these difficult circumstances, we are all saddened and filled with sorrow. To his family and to those who knew and cherished him, know that the thoughts and hearts of an entire community are with you. I ask you to accept my most sincere condolences, in my name, but also in the name of all men, women and families of 5 CMBG”, says Colonel Éric Tremblay, 5 CMBG Commander.

“Parents, loved ones and friends of Étienne, I can only painfully imagine the great void created by Étienne’s sudden passing. For us, his brothers in arms of 5 CER, his departure is a very sad ordeal that reminds us of the reality attached to our commitment. In this period of great sorrow, the most soothing gesture we can think of is to reiterate our friendship and our solidarity in this terrible loss. A dedicated and professional soldier, Étienne embodied what every commander wants to see in his men and women. He will be missed. CHIMO”, adds Major Claude Many, 5 CER Commanding Officer, Corporal Gonthier’s home unit.

Media Advisory

A Fallen Soldier Returns Home

MA 08-003 - January 25, 2008

OTTAWA, Ont. — Our fallen soldier Corporal Etienne Gonthier, 21, of 5e Régiment Génie de Combat based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, Quebec, is scheduled to return home to Canada on Sunday.

Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.

When: Sunday January 27, 2:00 p.m.

What: Media are invited to view the arrival; however no interviews will be given.

Present to pay their respects will be Her Excellency, the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and other dignitaries.

Cpl Gonthier was killed at approximately 1:40 p.m. Kandahar time on January 23, when the armoured vehicle he was in struck a suspected Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 35 km south-west of Kandahar City.


Military identifies Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan

Last Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Canadian military has released the name of a soldier from Quebec killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

Sapper Etienne Gonthier, 21, of the 5ième régiment du Génie de Combat, was killed and two others were slightly injured Wednesday when their light armoured vehicle hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, the military said Thursday. Gonthier, a combat engineer, was born in Quebec City.

The soldiers were part of an operation using bulldozers and other equipment to search for mines during a road clearance operation when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). The incident, which took place about 35 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City in Panjwaii district, occurred at 1:40 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Both of the injured soldiers were later released from hospital and have been in contact with their families.

"Through their devotion and effort, our soldiers bring the hope of a better life for the Afghan people," Brig-Gen. Guy Laroche said from Kandahar.

"A life that provides an opportunity for Afghan children to grow up in peace as young Canadians do back home."

A number of soldiers and civilians have been targets of recent IED attacks across the volatile Panjwaii region.

'Dedicated' soldier died before learning of promotion

spaceBy TU THANH HA, Globe and Mail, Friday, January 25, 2008

As Corporal Étienne Gonthier neared the end of his stint in Afghanistan, anxiety grew in his family, especially after he told them he saw fellow soldiers get injured.

Cpl. Gonthier had been on leave during the holidays, visiting his relatives. When he returned to Kandahar, he had only a couple of months left before the end of his first overseas deployment.

But lately, there was a sense of gloom, recalled family friend Paul-Henri Breton.

"He spoke to his father a week ago. He mentioned that he saw one guy get wounded, nearly losing his jaw. He said he stayed by his side until medical help arrived," Mr. Breton recalled.

Cpl. Gonthier, the 78th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, was killed by a makeshift bomb while his squadron of combat engineers was on a mine-clearing sweep in the Panjwai district. He died before learning he had been promoted from sapper to corporal.

Cpl. Gonthier is from Saint-Georges, in the Beauce region, 100 kilometres south of Quebec City, the son of France Poulin, a nurse, and Bernard Gonthier, a trucker.

In addition to mine clearing, Cpl. Gonthier's 5th Combat Engineer Regiment handled tough front-line jobs such as building bunkers in scorching August weather at Masum Ghar, a hilltop base overlooking the Panjwai valley that has been a frequent target of rocket attacks.

He was only 21, having enlisted at 18.

"I am writing you a last goodbye. I could never forget you are my first love and fate put an end to it ... I will never forget you," his girlfriend, Cinthia Morin, said in a memorial on Facebook.

In the online tribute, soldiers praised Cpl. Gonthier, nicknamed Jellybean.

"Always smiling. Even in Afghanistan where we crossed paths you were in a good mood despite the hardships," one wrote.

Saint-Georges Mayor Roger Carette, who met the corporal's parents yesterday, told reporters that the family wanted to talk about their son. "We know that Étienne's dad wasn't favourable to his enrolment in the army," the mayor said.

Family members were supposed to meet with the local media, but the event was cancelled. Mr. Gonthier said it was because he wasn't feeling well.

Cpl. Gonthier regularly kept in touch with his family, by phone and via the Internet. "They're a very tightly knit family," Mr. Carette said.

"We're all in a state of shock. He was a great person. Very, very nice and dedicated," said Yves Walsh, whose son played minor hockey with Cpl. Gonthier.

Mr. Breton said Cpl. Gonthier was familiar with the military, having a sister who was a cadet and an uncle in the navy.

Even though Cpl. Gonthier had a vocational diploma in construction trades, in high school he had told friends he wanted to join the army, a former schoolmate said.

After enlisting, Cpl. Gonthier first went to CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick to attend the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering.

A June, 2005, article on the army's website mentions him as one of a handful of sapper students who redecked a bridge in Fredericton.

Later, as he prepared for Afghanistan, Cpl. Gonthier shared with Mr. Breton stories of training at Fort Bliss in Texas and at the combat simulation facility at CFB Wainwright in Alberta.

"All of Beauce mourns together," the local MP, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, said in a statement.

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