Remembering on Nov. 11 sparks tough memories of Afghanistan tour of duty

Mike Lassaline on operations in Afghanistan. Part of his Remembrance experience is dealing with the loss of comrades-in-arms. (CDN_AFGHAN_VET)

In April 2007, eight Canadian soldiers, shouldering a wooden casket, marched across Kandahar Airfield. Five more caskets followed.

As the plane, carrying the bodies of their fallen comrades, departed Afghanistan, pallbearer Mike Lassaline, 27, noted a single tear streaking down a friend’s cheek.

“I’m remembering all the time,” Lassaline said during a Nov. 11 interview. “It’s always there in my head… I guess Remembrance Day to me is a time when most people’s minds are on the same thing… (It’s) a time to reflect.”

Born in Goderich, Ont., Lassaline enlisted in the Royal Canadian Regiment, 2nd Battalion, in October 2004 at age 20. In January 2007, he was posted to Afghanistan as a LAV III gunner for “H” Company.

During a routine patrol, Lassaline’s section of soldiers had to respond to the distress call of another LAV III hit by an improvised explosive device. The reality hit them the moment they arrived at the scene. The blast had claimed the lives of six Canadian soldiers and injured two others from Lassaline’s company.

“That was probably the most real moment I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” he said. “That made the situation (in Afghanistan) very real… We’d get fired upon all the time… but nobody was seriously injured. Then one bomb kills six guys. That really brought it home.”

Talking about the loss with fellow soldiers afterward, Lassaline said, helped him through the experience. He returned home in August 2007 after one tour and left the military a year ago to pursue a career in policing. Sharing stories about Afghanistan, fills in gaps.

“Trying to remember back to one instance is really hard, but it helps talking to a couple guys that I was over there with,” he said. “Stories pop up that I totally forgot about, and (they’ll) jar something in their head… We talk about it to remember it.”