On Dec. 23, 2009, Lt. Andrew Nuttall was on a joint foot patrol with members of the Afghan National Army in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan.
Just after 4 p.m., the soldiers stopped for a quick water break and then turned back to head home, back to base.
A few hundred metres away, members of the Taliban were lying in wait. They activated a trip wire, arming a buried improvised explosive device.
Nuttall was the leader of 12 Platoon, 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He was at the front of the patrol. The explosion ended his life. He was just 30 years old.
Nuttall had been a resident of Saanich South, and his parents continued to live here. Although I didn't know him or his family, I went to the funeral to offer my condolences as the MLA of their constituency.
But it was a very private affair and so I stood at a distance. More and more friends and family kept arriving and the cemetery seemed to fill with terrible sadness. Daylight faded away and a cold rain poured down.
That day changed Remembrance Day for me. I attend Remembrance Day ceremonies every year; I was taught what it represented, and I appreciated the meaning.
But not until I met the Nuttall family did I feel Remembrance Day inside my heart. A strong mother and father weeping openly for their son who would never return, a man born in the same generation as myself giving his life. Remembrance Day has a face for me now, and that is the face of Andrew Nuttall.
I've gotten to know Nut-tall's parents, Rick and Jane Nuttall, a little over the last few years. His father told me that his son was willing to fight and risk his life as a soldier because he wanted to protect vulnerable people. He wanted to make a positive change in our global village. And because he believed that giving human rights and democracy a chance to take hold in Afghanistan was a noble goal.
Nov. 11 is a day to remember remarkable people like Nuttall and feel gratitude for how much they have given to make Canada and the world a safer place.
Nuttall kept a blog during his time in Afghanistan. (It is still on the web - www.nuttman.info - and recent entries by family detail ongoing tributes to him.) A few weeks before his death, he posted his last entry. Here is a paragraph from it:
"On one side, the people are frightened, impoverished, and seek nothing but safety and prosperity for their families. On the other side is a very small subset of a combination of extreme Salafist muslims (a.k.a. seeking to impose an extremist version of Islam on the entire world), anti-western mercenaries and misguided brainwashed (generally) youths that utilize cowardice hit-and-run and IED tactics in order to sway the civilian population of Afghanistan and North America to pull their troops out. Then there is us in the middle, an array of nations trying to combine our traditionally conventional forces and conduct combined operations with the young but capable ANA (and young but immature Afghan National Police, ANP), in a barren country with many more needs than just militaristic. Complicated, yes; confusing, only a bit; frustrating, unfortunately too much."
Last December, Lt. Nut-tall was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. This is a significant and fitting honour for someone with such a big heart who gave everything he had in the service of his country.
Lana Popham is the MLA for Saanich South.