June 7---As the flag-covered coffin of Master Cpl. Darrell Priede descended from a Hercules transport plane yesterday, a handful of military photographers could be seen with their cameras poised, documenting the final journey home of one of their own.
Under picture-perfect blue skies at this eastern Ontario military base, members of Priede's grieving family stood huddled together alongside members of Canada's military brass, including Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and Minister of National Defence Gordon O'Connor.
The 30-year-old military photographer, who was based at CFB Gagetown, N.B., died last Wednesday when the helicopter he was flying was shot down in the volatile Helmand province in Afghanistan. He was photographing coalition forces trying to wrest control of a strategic valley from insurgents to pave the way for reconstruction.
The buzz of the plane nearly drowned out the sorrowful bagpiper's lament as the casket was carried into the awaiting hearse.
As the eight pallbearers loaded the casket, Priede's wife Angela, who was standing nearby surrounded by family and friends, wiped away tears.
Holding a red rose, she was the first to approach to say her goodbye to her husband, who had been in Afghanistan for less than six weeks.
She leaned into the hearse for more than five minutes, leaning on her husband's coffin and crying inconsolably as her family circled around her, patting her on the back and embracing her.
Priede's mother, Roxanne, wiped away tears as she tightly embraced Angela and took her turn to say her final goodbye.
Earlier this week, she said her son had volunteered to go to Afghanistan and was eager to document images of Canada's mission there. She also said he had believed he had one of the safest jobs in the country.
This was the second time Priede had been out photographing a combat mission.
On a number of military websites and blogs, those who knew Priede left messages for his family yesterday and remembered the soldier who was known among his colleagues for his photography and his desire to be among the soldiers.
"Although the quality of his work gave him bragging rights, he was always modest," wrote Mark Lamontagne, one of his military supervisors in Kingsley, N.B. "Darrell was a great worker and would do anything for you, however, the moment you cut him loose he would run to his beloved Angie."
Priede was born in Burlington and raised in British Columbia.
He died along with five Americans and a Briton when the CH-47 Chinook they were flying in was apparently shot down west of Kandahar.
Priede was doing his job as a photographer for the Reginal Command South, which oversees multinational efforts in each of the five southern Afghan provinces.
He was killed during Operation Lastay Kulang, part of the offensive against the Taliban.