Lieutenant-Colonel Geoff Parker
Colonel Geoff Parker was many things: a husband, a father, an engineer, a highly respected career officer and a natural leader committed to the soldiers under his command.
And sadly, he was also the highest-ranking officer killed during the Afghanistan War. He died when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of five military vehicles on 18 May 2010.
Col Simon Hetherington, who at the time of Col Walker's death was deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar, described Col Walker as a "rising star."
"He was a career infantry officer—a proud member of the Royal Canadian Regiment—who excelled in virtually every position he held in the Army," Col Hetherington said.
"As a battalion commander, he led his soldiers from the front and with distinction. The post he was preparing to fill was important, and of such high profile, he was handpicked from across the Army to do so. A rising star, his potential was undeniable."
Earlier that year, Col Parker had been assigned as the deputy director of stability for Regional Command South headquarters, stationed at the Kandahar Airfield, where he would have coordinated humanitarian and development initiatives.
He travelled to Afghanistan as part of a two-week reconnaissance mission in May 2010, which is where a suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with 1,600 pounds of explosives into the five-vehicle convoy.
The blast also killed twelve Afghan civilians and five American soldiers, who including Col John M. McHugh or West Caldwell, N.J.; LCol Paul R. Bartz of Waterloo, Wis.; LCol Thomas P. Belkofer of Perrysburg, Ohio; Staff Sergeant Richard J. Tieman of Waynesboro, PA; and Specialist Joshua Tomlinson of Dubberly, La. Forty-seven people were wounded in the attack, as well.
Col Parker was born in Oakville, Ontario, on 18 January 1968. He grew up in Oakville, graduating from the White Oaks Secondary School. At the age of 13, he joined the 1188 Lorne Scots RC (Army) Cadet Corps, where he quickly showed his dedication, commitment and potential.
He was passionate about cadets, and despite his sense of humour, he took his role in the Lorne Scots seriously. And it showed in the respect he paid to his unit and his peers—qualities he would carry forward into his career with the Canadian Forces. When Col Parker left cadets in 1986, he had reached the rank of company sergeant major.
George Chisholm, Col Parker's commanding officer in the Lorne Scots, described Col Parker as an active, good-natured participant.
"Geoff put a lot of himself into army cadets, and in return, he got a lot out of it. He attended four very good summer camps, and after spending six weeks in the Northwest Territories, he was selected to attend the national army cadet camp in Banff, Alberta. The following summer Geoff was one of 50 cadets from across Canada to take parachute training in Edmonton," Chisholm said during Col Parker's memorial service held at George's Square cenotaph in Oakville.
The Lorne Scots named an award—the Colonel Geoff Parker, CD Esprit de Corps Memorial Cup—after Col Parker in 2010. The trophy is awarded annually to the cadet "that has displayed exceptional Esprit de Corps."
After high school, Col Parker attended the University of Western Ontario, graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering Science. He enlisted with the Canadian Forces in Borden, Ont., on 15 June 1989, while still at UWO. He later earned a Masters in Electrical Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont.
After completing Infantry Officer training, Col Parker joined 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, based in London, Ont., in 1991. In 1992, the 1st Battalion RCR moved to Petawawa, Ont. with Col Parker commanding an M113 rifle platoon at the time.
After a brief posting to Belleville, Ont., Col Parker returned to Petawawa in 1996. In 2000, he was promoted to major. In 2003, he attended the Canadian Forces College in North York, Ont., after which he returned to Petawawa to serve as G3 (administrative officer) of the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.
Col Parker received his next promotion, to lieutenant-colonel, in 2006. With that promotion came a move to CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick, in 2007, when he was given command of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, a mechanized unit.
He left that position with the RCR in June 2009, and his final move saw him return to Toronto in 2010 to work with the Land Force Central Area Headquarters as the deputy director of stability for Regional Command South headquarters.
Following news of Col Parker's death, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton expressed his "deep condolences to Col. Parker's family and to express our town's sense of loss. He's the first solider from Oakville killed in Afghanistan, and all of us grieve for his family, and all of us know that our community has lost one of its best and brightest souls."
The City of Oakville included Col Parker's name on George's Square Memorial and Cenotaph. The Royal Military of College of Canada, meanwhile, named an annual award in Col Parker's name.
In 2012, The Halton Regional Police Service named one of their police dogs "Parker" in honour of Col Parker. Like his namesake, Police Service Dog Parker, who died in 2019 shortly after his retirement, was described as "universally loved" and "loyal."
During his military career, Col Parker received the Canadian Forces' Decoration (CD) for the completion of twelve years of service and the NATO Medal for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (NATO-FYROM) medal.
Col Parker is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, and his children, Charlie and Alexandria. In a statement released by the Canadian Forces after Col Parker's death, Mary Jane Parker said her husband was also her best friend.
"I have known Parker essentially all my life, and I, as well as all those who took the time to truly know him, realized he was a kind, caring, sarcastic and supportive friend," she said.
"Never one to back down from a challenge, or what he saw as right, Parker loved the Royals, the Army and Canada. All who knew him knew of his capacity to work, to care and to be supportive of others.
"The children (Alexandria and Charlie) and I will miss him dearly but know he is watching over us with the encouragement to 'put a smile on and move forward."