Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht
Master Corporal Kristal Lee-Anne Giesebrecht, 34, loved to help people and to bring them together. And serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as a medical technician was the perfect way to do both for the competitive, energetic, fun-loving and compassionate woman known for her smile and her charm.
MCpl Giesebrecht was born in Wallaceburg, Ontario, on 2 October 1975. She joined the Canadian Forces medical services in January 2002, putting her medical technician diploma from St. Lawrence College in where to work.
Posted to Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, MCpl Giesebrecht first worked at the Canadian Medical Equipment Depot and then the 1 Canadian Field Hospital. In 2006, MCpl Giesebrecht—a member of the Kenhteke Kanyen'kehá:ka (Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte)—completed her first rotation, or tour, of Afghanistan. She returned for a second rotation in 2010.
MCpl Giesebrecht died 26 June 2010 alongside medical technician Pte Andrew Miller when an improvised landmine exploded in a doorway of an Afghan home southwest of Kandahar City. It's believed their armoured vehicle, a LAV III, caused the mine to explode. A third soldier was wounded but survived the blast.
In commending her service, Lt-Col Richard Poirier, commanding officer of 1 Canadian Field Hospital, described MCpl Giesebrecht as well-respected, tenacious, professional and helpful. But he added, it was her winning smile that won him over.
"I can't remember even one day when she wasn't smiling," he said during a service to celebrate MCpl Giesebrecht held at the City of London building at CFB Petawawa. "She made a lasting impression, and you just wanted to be her friend."
Along with her smile, MCpl Giesebrecht gave everyone around her all that she had, willingly and happily, filling her heart and the hearts of others around her, friends, family and patients alike, as she went about her day.
Sgt Annick Duguay knew that well. She told those gathered for the celebration that MCpl Giesebrecht, her best friend, was all heart. "She was an amazing soldier, a devoted wife, and my best friend. She may have come in a small package, but she had one thing bigger than anyone else; her heart," said Sgt. Duguay, adding MCpl Giesebrecht made people feel special.
Lt (Navy) Melissa Mertens, who served with MCpl Giesebrecht, described her as an "absolute sweetheart," who would "open her heart to absolutely everybody. She loved being a medic, and she loved helping people."
Canada's highest-ranking officer in Afghanistan, Lt-Gen Jonathan Vance, described MCpl Giesebrecht as "a mentor and an inspiration for her fellow medical technicians. Kristal loved life to the fullest. She was a wonderful friend, always opening her heart to everyone in need.
"Kristal prided herself on her health and fitness, although she always felt the solution to any problem could be found in a box of chocolates," he said.
Matthew Giesebrecht, MCpl Giesebrecht's husband, travelled to Kandahar Airfield in May 2011, along with a handful of other Canadian families that had lost loved ones during the war, to see and experience Afghanistan first hand.
He said he chose to travel to Afghanistan—as part of the 17th and final pilgrimage organized by the Canadian Forces for grieving families—to "walk in Kristal's footsteps, to hear the helicopters and the jets." It allowed him to better understand how important her life in the military was to her.
"I've learnt what a big part of her life the military was. I am so proud of who she was, and I am discovering all of that over again," Matthew told Reuters.
He told the National Post, meanwhile, that he was proud of her decision to serve in both the Canadian Forces and in Afghanistan, even though it cost MCpl Giesebrecht her life. "I sleep well because she chose this mission and to serve in the Armed Forces. I am proud of her decision,” he said. "She truly felt she was helping."
MCpl Giesebrecht is survived by her husband, Matthew, and her stepson, Jonathan; her parents, Angela Mercer and Daniel Brant and her siblings, Shannon Shepley and Dan Brant.