A daughter's story

By Kari Kruse, Special to CBC News Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My name is Kari Kruse and I'm 13 years old and in Grade 8. My father, Greg Kruse, was a sergeant with 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2CER) in Petawawa, Ont. He was a combat engineer for 18 years and went to Afghanistan in August 2008, but he didn't finish the tour. He died on Dec. 27, 2008.

The last time I spoke to dad was on Christmas Day. He talked to my mom, my two twin sisters, Megan and Victoria, and to me. At the time, we talked about what we all got for Christmas, and the things that we were doing over the Christmas break. But when he got on the phone with my mom, I heard a scream of joy. Dad had just told her we had been posted back to Fredericton — our home town!

That was his Christmas present to us. We were going home! And nothing could have ruined that day.

But two days later, my whole world changed. Completely.

I remember the day that I found out that my father died. That whole day was madness. The doorbell rang, and my mother and I just looked at each other. We knew it was not good. After all, it was 9 a.m. My mom opened the door screaming, "Tell me he's OK! Tell me he's just hurt!"

But three soldiers walked in with tears in their eyes and hats at their hearts. I was yelling "NO!" My sisters, they didn't understand anything. They were yelling, "What??!!! What's wrong!!??" Because my mom and I were crying into hysterics.

So my mom took them to a corner and told them what was happening. She said: "Girls, daddy's not coming home. Daddy died. Daddy loves you." And then we all were hugging and crying.

'The fondest memories I have of [my dad] were when we went camping, when he took me exploring. He wanted to show me the world.' —Kari Kruse

That whole day I went through so much. The day alone felt as though it was six months long. I had this pain I could not explain that lasted a long while. But it seemed everything was happening so fast, yet so slow. There we were planning the funeral, and we had to call everyone in our family to notify them about his death.

After that I felt so alone. I was surrounded by so many people but I just had this alone feeling.

And for at least three months, I didn't really get to be around my own mother. She was always meeting these people, or going to this place. So most of the time I was cared for by my mom's best friend Cyndi. She was pretty much my mom for a while. But I didn't mind or anything, because Cyndi is a terrific person. And I still consider her as my second mom. She's always there for me no matter what.

A month after my dad died I was assigned a project in school. The project was to do an autobiography on your hero. I chose my dad. I did this project on him because he truly is my hero, in so many ways.

The fondest memories I have of him were when we went camping, when he took me exploring. He wanted to show me the world. And I really treasure those memories. He taught me so many things.

Another great memory I have of him is when he took me to my first concert, an Avril Lavigne concert. I remember the drive up to the concert, we had a nice chat, and during the concert I was screaming. It was so much fun. And another thing I think is really special is when we took our family photo. He wrapped his big strong arms around me and I still remember how safe and protected I felt.

I really do miss my dad and I know he loves me very much. I really wish he was still here with me. My life would be very different. I know he's not missing anything in my life, because now he has the front row seat on watching me grow up.

Note - Kari's remembrance is only one of several featured on the CBC Web site - We Remember.

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