By Patrick Szpak
Associate News Editor
A Ryerson graduate was one of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the bloodiest day for Canadian armed forces since the Korean War.
Cpl. Brent Donald Poland died on April 8 with five other soldiers when their LAV III armoured vehicle drove over a large roadside bomb likely laid by the Taliban. His unit was operating west of Kandahar city, according to a national defence news release.
Poland was the last soldier to be identified, his name withheld until Monday at the request of his family.
Don Snyder, chair of image arts, said Poland graduated from Ryerson in 1998 after earlier attending York where he earned a degree in history.
“This kind of news is so tragic, it hits you really hard,” Snyder said. “He was a really good student, especially in film and digital graphics.”
Snyder said Poland graduated from Ryerson in 1998 after transferring from York University, where he earned a degree in history.
Alexandra Bal, a professor of image arts who taught Poland, said she recognized his photo and remembered the dead soldier.
“I’m shocked,” Bal said, upon hearing the news of Poland’s death, “He was a really nice guy,” she added.
President Sheldon Levy’s prepared statement expressed condolences to the Poland family, and “heartfelt pride that he lived his life in the way he chose.”
He went on to say that “Ryerson University honours one of its own, with sorrow and profound respect.”
A male member of Poland’s family was reached at their Camlachie Ont. home and declined to comment, but referred The Eyeopener to the family’s statement published by national defence.
“In his thirties, Brent chose to follow his heart and his passion. He enlisted in the Canadian Forces where he volunteered for a career as an infantry soldier,” the statement said.
The family’s statement said that Poland wanted to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan and that he was inspired by the thought that his efforts would give Afghan women the chance to go to school and be free from oppression.
“We are so very proud of Brent’s service and willingness to endure adversity to accomplish the goals of his heart. He is in every sense our hero and he will always be,” the statement continued.
Poland was serving as a member of Hotel Company in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Gagetown, N.B.
Speaking at the ramp ceremony (where dead soldiers are loaded on planes for return to Canada), Chief Warrant Officer Wayne O’Toole, a 30-year veteran of the military who served as Sergeant-Major for Hotel Company, said he was impressed by Poland.
“Cpl. Poland was an intense soldier. He would be intense just digging a hole,” O’Toole said. The six soldiers’ deaths bring the number of Canadians killed in Afghanistan to 52 since the Canadian mission began in 2002.