POLITICS

Soldier killed in Iraq was someone who could lend a sympathetic ear, friend says

03/09/2015 03:47 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
MONCTON, N.B. - Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron was passionate about his career in the military and a dedicated friend to many who could lend a sympathetic ear when needed, a longtime friend from high school recalled Monday.

Stephanie Learmouth met Doiron while they were both in Grade Nine at Ecole Mathieu-Martin, a French high school in Dieppe, N.B.

Learmouth remembers Doiron as someone who made it a point to cultivate and maintain friendships, even after he left school and embarked upon a military career, sending postcards and letters while he was away.

"He could be the greatest listener. He could be the biggest motivator. He could be very sympathetic," Learmouth said in an interview, adding that they kept in touch through social media and text messages.

"He played a lot of different roles for a lot of different people."

She said Doiron always wanted to serve his country, referring to it as "his mission," and he would smile when he talked about his role in the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.

"He was very patriotic. He had lots of pride and was proud of what he was doing," said Learmouth from Moncton, N.B., Doiron's hometown.

"He was never really bothered by fitting the mould. He was who he was."

Doiron, 31, was killed Friday in a friendly fire nighttime shooting by peshmerga fighters while he was serving in Iraq. Three other Canadian soldiers were wounded.

Kurdish officials have said their soldiers opened fire on the unsuspecting Canadian special forces members after they showed up at a front line unannounced to call in airstrikes against Islamic State fighters. But Canadian government officials have rejected that, saying the soldiers were at the same position earlier in the day and told the Kurds they would return later that night.

The special forces contingent, whose mission is to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish troops in their battle against the Islamic State, is based near the northern city of Irbil.

Learmouth said Moncton is devastated by Doiron's death.

"There is a wave of shock and sadness," said Learmouth, 31. "But at the same time there's a sense of pride and happiness for what he represented.

"I think a lot of people feel blessed to have crossed his path."

Doiron's family released a statement Sunday night asking for privacy.

"Our son gave all and through his loss, we gave all," it said. "We've lost our beloved son and we kindly ask the media to give our family space and privacy to grieve."

Doiron's body was making its way back to Canada on Monday. Soldiers carried Doiron's casket, wrapped in a Canadian flag, and loaded it onto a plane during a ramp ceremony Monday in Kuwait, the Defence Department's website said.

— By Aly Thomson in Halifax.