'Every soldier has someone behind them who loves them'
SHILO, Man. - They were together for more than half their lives, having been a couple since high school, and were best friends.
Rachel Leary, whose husband Capt. Richard Steve Leary was the latest Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan, described him as a brave and dedicated man.
Leary, 32, was killed Tuesday when a patrol he was leading was ambushed outside Kandahar.
"He believed in what he was doing, and he was dedicated to all his guys,'' Leary said through tears, reading from a prepared statement at Canadian Forces Base Shilo.
For nearly two years, the couple had called Shilo home. Richard Leary was often called "Rich'' by his colleagues on the base, a military spokeswoman said.
Whenever her husband was away, Leary said she always knew how much he cared.
"No matter where he was, whether he was training or ... I never doubted how much he loved or missed me,'' said Leary, 29.
"He was my very best friend, and a wonderful husband.''
The Learys, who met in their hometown of Brantford, Ont., have been together since he was 16 and she was 14, Richard's aunt, Terry Careswell, told the Brantford Expositor on Tuesday.
They were to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in August, said Lori Truscott, a military spokeswoman based at Shilo.
As Leary read her statement, she was surrounded by soldiers and flanked by Wanda Watkins, the mother of Pte. Lane Watkins, a Manitoba soldier who was killed last summer in Afghanistan.
"I want every Canadian out there to know that every soldier has someone behind them who loves them and supports them and sacrifices for them,'' said Leary, her voice shaking.
Asking for privacy to deal with her grief and emotions, Leary did not take reporters' questions.
Richard Leary is also survived by his parents Richard and Gail, and his sister Brandi.
In Afghanistan, thousands of NATO soldiers attended a ramp ceremony Wednesday that marked Leary's final journey home.
A military ceremony is planned for Friday at CFB Trenton in Ontario.