A Canadian soldier killed yesterday in Afghanistan was so unhappy with his mission, he had asked an army priest if talk of suicide would get him discharged, says his girlfriend’s father.
Cpl. Anthony Boneca, 21, didn’t feel suicidal “but he went to the priest to see if he could get out that way,” said Larry DeCorte. “He hated it over there. He was misled as to what was going to be there when he got there, and what he would be doing. He was very mad about it.”
As a reservist, Boneca did not expect to be called upon for heavy duty, said DeCorte, adding Boneca had complained of a long-range patrol that was supposed to last seven days, but stretched into three weeks. The week’s worth of food he left with had to be stretched as well.
“They’d have to cut the rations, or they’d run out of water,” said DeCorte. “They’d have no food or water by the end of it.”
Boneca’s second tour, said DeCorte, was completely different from the first. “Nothing was good about this one.”
DeCorte said Boneca had fractured an ankle but was kept on a patrol in the mountains for a week before he got back to have it looked at.
Boneca, a reservist from Thunder Bay serving with a regiment attached to the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry battle group, was involved in a firefight with Taliban insurgents, west of Kandahar airfield, when he was fatally wounded at 8:30 yesterday morning Afghanistan time — midnight in Thunder Bay.
Shirley and Tony Boneca were told of their son’s death by an army padre and a commander who came to their Thunder Bay home at 3:30 a.m. yesterday. Their only child had just three weeks left on his second tour in Afghanistan.
“This is so hard to do,” Elizabeth Babe, Boneca’s aunt, said from the family home yesterday. “He was coming home in 20 days. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about a wonderful boy. I’ve known him all of his life, as short as it has been.”
According to the Department of National Defence, Boneca’s unit was engaged in a fight about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar airfield. The unit was part of Operation Zahar (sword in Pashto), a joint Afghan/coalition effort to take out Taliban in the area. Boneca was flown by helicopter to a medical facility at Kandahar airfield, where he was pronounced dead.
A few hours after Boneca was hit, two other Canadian soldiers were wounded in action in the battle. They were flown to hospital at the international coalition base. Their injuries were described as non-life threatening. Two other Canadians were wounded Saturday, one seriously, in a firefight in the same general area. None of their names has been released.
Boneca is the country’s 17th military casualty in Afghanistan since 2002.
“We really do have to admire his professionalism and his heroic efforts to help out people less fortunate than ours,” said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, the Canadian commander on the multinational brigade in Kandahar. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement: “Our prayers are with the loved ones of Cpl. Boneca in these difficult times and we stand proudly as a nation knowing that his sacrifice was not in vain; that he laid down his life for the safety of citizens in both Canada and Afghanistan.”
He leaves his parents, six aunts and two uncles, many cousins, family in Portugal, and his girlfriend, Megan DeCorte, 19.
Larry DeCorte said Boneca and his daughter planned to marry. There was no set date because Boneca had wanted to ask him in person for permission.
“He was the love of her life, and they were planning on a life together right after he got home,” DeCorte said. “We loved him. The whole family here loved him. He is the kind of kid that, when you have daughters, you want your daughter to find.”
Boneca was born and raised in Thunder Bay. He graduated a few years ago from St. Ignatius Catholic Secondary School, where he quarterbacked the Falcons, the school’s football team, with great enthusiasm if not always across the goal line.
“He was always one of the ones where you’d have to repeat yourself about 30 times for instructions,” chuckled Barry Quarrell, a vice-principal at St. Ignatius who coached the team when Boneca was there. “He’d always forget the plays. He’d say, `Give me a piece of paper, give me a book, write it on my forehead.’
“I just knew what kind of soldier he was,” said Quarrell, “because he was dedicated at whatever he did, and I know that he loves what he did.”
Boneca got his first taste of the military four years ago when he signed up as a reservist with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, based in his hometown. The infantry unit has a motto of <>Inter Pericula Intrepidi<>, Latin for fearless in the face of danger.
“He didn’t really have any goal for when he finished high school,” said his aunt. “He sort of knew he wasn’t ready to go to college or university.
“He liked military strategy, military games, and stuff like that. So I guess that just followed naturally. I guess he figured it would be something to try, and when he did go into the reserves, he really, really, loved it. He made a lot of friends.”
Boneca emailed friends last week: “It’s so hot here now you can barely handle it. I know you’re all watching the news and know what’s going on here, but don’t worry, I’ll be okay.”
Coalition troops will pay tribute to Boneca today. Funeral details have not been finalized. Plans were being made yesterday to bring his body home.