Calgarian latest soldier to die in Afghanistan
Paramedic Michael Starker poses beside a Calgary ambulance in January just before leaving for Canadian military service in Afghanistan as a corporal. Starker was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.
Updated: May 07, 2008 12:34 AM
CALGARY — The life-sized photo that now haunts the hallway of Calgary’s Emergency Medical Services headquarters shows Cpl. Michael Starker with his arm draped across an ambulance and a determined look in his eye.
Starker, 36, a Calgary paramedic and Canadian soldier, was killed Tuesday in southern Afghanistan when his patrol came under fire during an ambush.
With tears in his eyes, Calgary EMS chief Tom Sampson said Starker was one of those guys who would always help those in need, and that’s what he died doing.
“I think it’s clear from his ... profession that he was one of those people who wanted to help others,” Sampson said during a hastily convened press conference Tuesday afternoon, just hours after hearing of Starker’s death.
“He certainly served his duty helping Calgarians here and I think he went to help there. And it’s such a shame that he should die while trying to help like that.”
Starker had been with Calgary’s EMS for nearly three years, but had served with the Canadian military before and during his time as a paramedic, said Sampson.
Born and raised in the southern Alberta city, Starker was married but did not have any children.
A member of Starker’s family in Calgary said Tuesday that the soldier’s father didn’t want to speak publicly, preferring all information on his son’s death to come from the military.
Starker becomes the 83rd Canadian soldier to be killed in the war-ravaged Asian country since 2001. He was a reservist with 15 Field Ambulance, which is headquartered in Edmonton but has a detachment in Calgary.
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said Tuesday that Starker’s death is part of the human cost of Canada’s role in Afghanistan.
“The numbers are increasing, but I do know the soldiers take extreme pride in the support that they have from Albertans and the job they are doing in Afghanistan. There is sacrifice and Albertans don’t forget that.”
Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition Leader Stephane Dion issued statements of condolence.
Dion spoke of “the sacrifice our brave men and women” make, while Harper lauded the Canadian military for “working to bring security and democracy” to Afghanistan.
Lt.-Col. Roger Scott, commanding officer of 15 Field Ambulance, said the unit’s first priority is to care for Starker’s family.
“He was a dedicated member and someone who could be relied on to do his job with the utmost professionalism,” Scott said in a release.
“His dedication to the unit was second to none and he was well-liked by his colleagues.”
Scott noted that Starker had been a reservist for five years.
“He volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan out of a profound sense that he could make a difference to the people of that country, as well as his fellow members in the Canadian Forces,” Scott said.
“This is what he was doing when he lost his life in the service of his country.”
Sampson said Starker will remembered by friends and colleagues in the Calgary EMS as a man with the heart of gold who brought out the best in everyone.
“We have a bit of a saying here: when people leave us before their time, it is our opinion that the sun went down while it is still day.”
Starker was one of two Calgary paramedics serving in Afghanistan.
Travis Lanoway, who was deployed a month ago, can be seen as big as life, standing beside his friend and colleague in that same EMS photo of Starker.
“We understand that Travis is very interested in bringing Mike home,” Sampson said while choking back tears. “And that’s what we’re thinking may happen.”