Family, comrades bury slain Toronto soldier
A Toronto family is remembering and saying goodbye to a young Canadian soldier who died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.
An honour guard of fellow soldiers carried the flag-draped casket of Pte. Demetrios Diplaros into the Metamorphosis Greek Orthodox church in the city's east end on Friday.
Across the street, solemn school children watched the proceedings, holding Canadian flags in their hands.
About 400 people attended the funeral. Speakers praised him as a brother and friend who gave up his life so others could live in freedom half a world away.
Jerry Diplaros, the soldier's father who carries a picture of his boy as an infant, has said he last spoke his son in November just one day before Demetrios's 24th birthday.
"Oh, he told me how much he loved me, how much he was looking forward to coming back, and him and his girlfriend had plans to get married," he said.
But on Dec. 5, the lives of Diplaros and two other Canadian soldiers -- Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, 23, and Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson, 27 -- would be cut short.
The three -- all of whom served with the 1st battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont. -- died when their armoured personnel carrier struck a massive roadside bomb. Their deaths brought Canada's military casualty toll in Afghanistan to 100.
They worked in what's known as an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT, pronounced "omelettes" by the troops), which help teach Afghan National Army soldiers about military professionalism.
Diplaros, who grew up in Scarborough, had been on his first tour in Afghanistan and had earned praise for his work as a gunner and driver.
"He was an incredibly competent and capable soldier who was on the front lines ...," said Brig.-Gen. John Collin.
McLaren will be buried Saturday in Peterborough, his home town.
CFB Petawawa said information about Wilson's funeral will be released sometime on Friday.
Wilson's wife, Master Cpl. Debra (Starr) Hendrickson, was also serving in Afghanistan at Kandahar Airfield when Robert died.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon