A highly decorated soldier known for putting his life before others has been immortalized as the first Kamloops resident added to the Battle Street cenotaph since the Korean War.
Master Cpl. Erin Doyle, 32, was remembered Friday morning by friends and the soldiers who served alongside him as a man with a big heart who laughed at his mistakes and loved his family.
"Family was always first and second were the people who needed someone to stand up for them," said family friend Stan Fike.
More than 150 people - including politicians, school children, and military personnel - attended the plaque's unveiling Friday morning. Doyle's mom Kathy Mitchell and step dad Bob Mitchell placed a wreath at the cenotaph's base before removing the black cloth that covered Doyle's name.
"We did it," Mitchell said quietly afterward.
Doyle died Aug. 11, 2008, when insurgents attacked a remote combat outpost in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province.
As far as members of the Royal Canadian Legion and Kamloops Museum and Archives are aware, Doyle is the first Canadian Afghanistan War veteran to have his or her name added to such a memorial.
He's also the first Kamloops resident added to the Battle Street monument in 65 years, something Maj. George Jones of the city's Rocky Mountain Ranger reserve unit, believes is a sad honour.
"Regrettably we do so today," he said. "However, we do this publicly to honour Erin and show our thanks to Erin and his family for his ultimate sacrifice.
Fike shared a short bio of Doyle's accomplishments, painting the picture of dedicated soldier and family man. Doyle served with the RMRang from 1996 to 1998 before joining the Alberta-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry unit.
He served in various campaigns in different parts of the world, including Bosnia and Afghanistan, and was honoured for his work. Doyle received more than a half-dozen medals and commendations, including the Chief of Defence Staff Commendation.
Twice Doyle took charge of medical evacuations following explosions caused by improvised explosive devices. He saved lives as a result, said Fike. The commendation recognized his bravery.
Such behaviour wasn't out of character for Doyle, said Fike. It wasn't unusual for him to lend money to help someone's family, fix a broken down vehicle, or make an emergency trip home, often without any thought of repayment.
"It was not beneath him to be there for anyone who needed help or support of any kind," said Fike.
Capt. Rod Dearing, who served in Afghanistan alongside Doyle, said his friend stood out among a company of war veterans.
"Erin Doyle was one of the strongest junior leaders in that company at that time and I will never forget that guy," he said.
After the ceremony, a tearful Mitchell told reporters how proud she is of her son. She said the unveiling is a historic moment for Kamloops and she's grateful to all the people who attended.
But the loss still hurts, she said.
"It's unfortunate there's still an enormous hole in our family. We'll never fill it. We can't just go out and get another Erin," said Mitchell.
Clarence Schneider of the Royal Canadian Legion approached the City six months ago about honouring Doyle on the cenotaph. Schneider said museum supervisor Elisabeth Duckworth was instrumental to getting the task complete.
Duckworth said May 25 was selected for the unveiling because the cenotaph was unveiled on the date in 1925.
© Kamloops Daily News