Major Yannick Pépin

1973 - 6 Sep 09

Soldiers vow to finish job for fallen comrades

Roadside bomb kills 2; Quebec officer was highest-ranking to die in combat

By Matthew Fisher, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 8, 2009

The most senior Canadian to die in combat in Afghanistan and one of his combat engineers began their long journey back to Canada on Monday after their flag-draped caskets were slowly marched on to a CC-130 Hercules transport as a lone piper skirled a sad lament.

Maj. Yannick Pépin, 36, of Victoriaville, Que., commander of the 51st Field Engineers Squadron of the 5th Combat Engineers, and Cpl. Jean-François Drouin, 31, of Quebec City, who served with the same unit, were killed and five other Canadians were injured Sunday when their armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Dand district, southwest of Kandahar City.

Three of the five wounded soldiers were released from hospital by Monday. All were listed in good condition.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered, in a statement, his condolences to the family and friends of the soldiers.

"The sacrifices of these soldiers will not be forgotten and this tragic event will not deter us from continuing to help Afghans rebuild their country," he said.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest added: "News of the death of Yannick Pépin and Jean-François Drouin distresses us deeply and touches all Quebecers ... In the name of all Quebecers I salute their courage and generosity."

Five weeks ago, after a ramp ceremony for two of his sappers, Pépin said: "Everybody has fear in a mission. If you don't, you're not normal.

"My sappers go first ahead of everyone to save the lives of civilians and soldiers."

Despite the deaths on Aug. 1 of Sapper Matthieu Allard and Sapper Christian Bobbitt, Pépin, who joined the army in 1999, had said his unit would only take 12 hours to mourn before getting "back on the road."

Sapper Alexandre Beaudin-D'Anjou of Quebec City, his face swollen and bloodied from wounds he suffered in Sunday's blast, and Sapper Junior Lecours of Victoriaville, whose right arm was in a huge cast, stood to attention with some difficulty beside the rear door to the aircraft as the caskets of their fallen comrades passed by.

After the ceremony was completed, Beaudin-D'Anjou made an emotional appeal to his countrymen to try to understand the Afghan mission better.

"I want to say that part of the Canadian population negatively views the work that we do here, above all because they don't understand what we do," Beaudin-D'Anjou said.

"In my opinion the majority of the Afghan population benefits from what we do. Sadly, there are dangers in this, as you saw in yesterday's incident. All the soldiers feel deeply that we will finish this work for one another."

Beaudin-D'Anjou's own recollections of the blast and aftermath were incomplete because he lost consciousness soon after the incident.

"I was hit on the left side of my face," the sapper said. "All I could think of was, 'Can I move my arms and my legs?' My first reflex was to call out to those who were with me. Some called back. Others didn't."

Pépin and Drouin were attached to the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group and were in the last weeks of their six-month tour.

The French-speaking Van Doos will be replaced soon by a battle group drawn largely from the Alberta-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Pépin is survived by his partner, Annie, and their two children, Alexandra and Charles. Drouin leaves behind his partner, Audrey.

Drouin was a great favourite of the other engineers, who called him "Big Drou," said Col. Roch Lacroix, the deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar. He had been a sapper for only three years, but had received an "accelerated promotion" to corporal before deploying for Afghanistan with his unit.

"The promotion was testimony of the high regard in which he was held and his devotion and desire were unsurpassed," the colonel said.

"He was a very generous man with a heart as big as the three barbells he liked to lift at the gym.

"He was a bon vivant who liked to make others laugh. His favourite phrase was, 'Why do tomorrow what you can do today?' "

Lacroix also recalled the time when Pépin stopped while on patrol to fetch a kite that had been caught in his vehicle's antenna "and handed it to a small Afghan child who thought it had been lost," the colonel said.

"On that day we wore a big grin."

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Two Canadian soldiers killed and five injured in an explosive device strike

CEFCOM NR–09.023 - September 6, 2009

OTTAWA– Two Canadian soldiers were killed and five injured when an improvised explosive device detonated near their armoured vehicle in the vicinity of Dand District, approximately 14 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City at around 12:00 p.m., Kandahar time, on 6 September 2009.

Killed in action was Corporal Jean-François Drouin from 5e Régiment du génie de combat serving as a member of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group based in Valcartier, Quebec.

Killed in action was Major Yannick Pépin also from 5e Régiment du génie de combat serving as a member of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group based in Valcartier, Quebec.

The injured members were evacuated by helicopter to the Role 3 Multi-National Medical Facility at the Kandahar Airfield and are in good condition. The identities of the injured members will not be released.

Our thoughts and condolences go to the family and friends of our fallen comrades.

Canadian soldiers and their ANSF partners work together for the greater good of Afghanistan. Security operations sometimes require a heavy price to be paid, but the challenge we face cannot deter us from our ultimate goal and commitment we have toward Afghans.


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