Christopher was an intriguing balance between being reflectively observant and daringly active. He burst into the world on his father’s birthday and from then on enjoyed life “on the edge.” Even as a toddler, he possessed a private personality, content to sit back and study the world around him. As a child, he rarely complained even when in pain.

Although he loved to observe, he also prized participating in the action of life. Upon receiving his first bicycle, he was not permitted to go out onto the busy road in front of his home, so he rode his bicycle for hours in circles on the front lawn. In his youth, Chris had a penchant for finding the biggest and deepest puddles and wading in until his boots were overflowing and his clothes soaked and filthy.

While he had the capacity to be adventurous and somewhat mischievous, he also enjoyed quiet activities, such as taking apart old radios and other discarded items around the house. Through the rebuilding of these objects, he honed his problem solving skills which proved to be valuable throughout his life. Chris enjoyed reading as well. His bedtime reading material was quite frequently the Canadian Encyclopedia and then, later on, mechanic manuals and poetry. Later in life, one of his biggest hobbies was doing mechanical work on his or someone else’s vehicle. After Chris joined the Nova Scotia Highlander Reserves and the Canadian Armed Forces, he thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed visiting the engineer shops and the mechanic shops on the various CF Bases. Chris had a keen interest in learning mechanics and was a natural. He became a self-taught mechanic and could fix just about anything. He even took old motor parts into his apartment to clean and then use to rebuild an old Toyota Celica he had purchased earlier.

In 1989, Chris and his buddy, Mike MacNeil, joined the Nova Scotia Highlanders. This was a true life-changing experience for Chris as he quickly matured from a teenager into an adult. In 1995, both Chris and Mike joined the Regular Force with Chris posted to the First Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Calgary, AB, (later Edmonton). Mike was posted to the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa, ON. Throughout the years, when home on leave, the two would always connect.Chris loved the Infantry of the Canadian Armed Forces and never missed a training exercise. He completed two tours in Bosnia, one in Kosovo and another six month tour in CFS Alert before serving in Afghanistan. As a soldier, he was highly-respected for his dedication and skills.

He was widely-regarded as having above average driving skills and many of his comrades had faith in his driving abilities while operating his Light Armoured Vehicle III. While on one of the many patrols in Afghanistan, Chris’ unit came under heavy fire. On one occasion, Chris and other LAV drivers tried unsuccessfully to extract an American LAV from a “wadi.” In frustration, Chris dismounted from his LAVIII under heavy fire to hook the stuck LAV to a cable and extract it. For his actions, he was awarded posthumously a Mention in Dispatches, “For outstanding courage and dedication to duty and his comrades in Afghanistan, on 27 July 2006. Under heavy enemy fire, he voluntarily dismounted to extract a stuck vehicle. His selfless actions enabled fire from the recovered vehicle to suppress the enemy.”

Chris used his problem solving skills and reflective demeanour to become a wise counselor to his friends and younger recruits. He had a sensitive side and loved to make his family and friends laugh. Christopher possessed a dry sense of humour. He was without pretence and never strived to impress. His greatest desire was to be a career corporal and even averted promotions in order to continue serving in that position. He lived a simply with few possessions, embracing a life of minimalism. He had two of everything in his apartment (two forks, two spoons, two plates, two towels, etc.). It was his goal to have all his worldly possessions fit in the back of his Toyota “TACO” quarter-ton stick shift truck should he be deployed. By so doing, he could quickly pack, put all his belongings in his truck and back his truck into a storage unit for when he returned. After his death, Chris’ parents picked up his truck and his belongings. Often times, his comrades ask if they are still driving the TACO. With broad grins on their faces, they respond they are and that it has many, many kilometres to travel yet, but under gentler conditions.

Chris was a man of few words, a thinker, observer and a dedicated soldier. Although he thrived in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan, he was equally at home four-wheeling with friends in Nova Scotia or connecting in laughter with family.

By: Sarah J. Den Boer

Portrait by Shairl Honey