Andrew, an adventurous young man with an infectious sense of humour, a ready grin and the last name Eykelenboom, of course would be nicknamed Boomer by his military friends and companions. He grew up on an acreage near Edmonton exploring and creating games with his two older brothers, Steven and Gordon. They freely ranged through the woods, the sandpile, and the barn. He withstood the usual sibling pecking order and soon learned how to be scrappy enough to stand up for himself.

He loved sports and played a full range of them, baseball to rugby. He also enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, archery, skiing and mountain biking. He learned climbing skills at a Christian wilderness church camp near Nordegg. And to balance out his physical life, he was an insatiable reader, a habit he took with him to Afghanistan.

If there was mischief to get into, Andrew could find it. No doubt he learned his lesson the first time he licked the frost from the metal window frame of the school bus and left some of his tongue behind when released.

Notable in one so young, he was compassionate. He cared about the disabled, the disadvantaged and the elderly. He would help anyone who needed it whether picking out hard-to-reach groceries or giving his winter hat and mitts to a homeless person. He was always ready to listen to the elderly in hospital who needed a caring ear. He would help any friend and was even hospitalized himself after an altercation when he was sticking up for a buddy.

After his brothers had grown and left home, his parents retired to Comox, B.C. On moving day, 16-year-old Boomer drove the family car the 1,350 kms from Edmonton to their new home. He finished his last two years of high school there. He didn’t sit around, of course, but turned out for rugby, took kick-boxing, and enjoyed camping and hiking and beach parties with his new friends. He and his dad made time for fishing.

It is no surprise that this athletic young man, with compassion for others, chose firefighter and medic for his life’s work. He joined the military for further training. He had volunteered with the Comox Fire Department in high school and done a work practicum with the 19 Wing Comox firefighters. A treatment room at 19 Wing’s 21 Forces Health Service Centre is named for him. He planned to return to the Comox Valley after completing his military service. After 9/11 he insisted on serving in Afghanistan, where he knew he would be needed.

Once there, he didn’t change. He studied and played and laughed a lot. He could even settle down with a good book, even in transit while waiting for his turn on sentry duty. He certified as a scuba diver when on leave in Thailand. He cared for all wounded “as God’s children” and wrote home asking for supplies for the children, whose plight touched him deeply. “Mom, send me good stuff for the kids, they have nothing, and I have everything that I need. Just send stuff for them.”

From that care and concern, his family established Boomer’s Legacy, a foundation that raises awareness and funds to Help Our Soldiers Help Others at Home and Abroad.

By Janet Rolfson

Portrait by Shairl Honey