Brian Pinksen was one of the few students who sat down in high school careers class and knew what he wanted to be.
He was going to be a soldier. That was that, said Gerard Lowe, his former teacher at Corner Brook Regional High in Corner Brook, Nfld.
They became friends after Corporal Pinksen graduated and joined the military a few years ago. They had beers before he left for Afghanistan and Mr. Lowe promised another round when he finished the tour.
Those plans were dashed last week when a blast from an improvised explosive device sent 21-year-old Cpl. Pinksen to a German military hospital with severe injuries. He died there Monday, with his mother and girlfriend by his side, his friends said.
"I do remember discussing the risks with him," Mr. Lowe said. "And he'd say 'That's part of the job.' It was something that he really believed in."
The Aug. 22 explosion happened in the Panjwai district southwest of Kandahar City and wounded the soldier from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, based in Corner Brook. He was transported by helicopter to the medical facility at Kandahar Airfield, then moved to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Cpl. Pinksen is the 152nd Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.
He was serving in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, at the time. Reports say a second soldier, who has not been identified, was also injured in the incident.
"It is with utmost sorrow that I extend the condolences of all Canadians to the family and friends of Corporal Brian Pinksen, a brave soldier who died due to injuries sustained in Afghanistan," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to you at this time of loss."
While Cpl. Pinksen knew he wanted to be in the military - he had already joined the reserves during high school - he shared some of his worries about the mission with longtime friend Ryan King.
"Brian knew he was signing up for something ridiculous. He used to joke, [but then say]'There's some nights, Ryan, I can't sleep,' " Mr. King said. "He signed up for it, he's got to go."
Cpl. Pinksen even tried to dissuade Mr. King from joining the military (Mr. King couldn't go after failing a hearing test).
The last time they spoke was last week, when Cpl. Pinksen said he was doing some raids looking for weapons caches. He could not divulge more, Mr. King said, because of confidentiality.
Cpl. Pinksen was close with his younger brothers, Brendan and Blair. He loved to hunt, exercise and enjoyed being outdoors, Mr. King said. He was well-liked and showed a maturity among his friends.
"In high school Brian was Corner Brook's little Superman in Newfoundland," Mr. King said. "He never talked down to anyone, no matter what."
And, just like in many small cities, Corner Brook flooded with rumours about Cpl. Pinksen's condition over the past week.
The last Mr. King heard, his friend was going to pull through. When people began to speak of Cpl. Pinksen's death on Monday, the 19-year-old wouldn't believe it.
He still worries for the well-being of Brian's friend Justin, also from Corner Brook, who has been serving with him in Afghanistan. He wanted to come home to carry Mr. Pinksen's casket, Mr. King said. It's not clear whether that will happen.
Cpl. Pinksen was interviewed in 2009 by The Western Star. He said had no regrets about being in the reserves and looked forward to being shipped overseas.
"I'm so glad I joined," he said. "I did BMQ [basic military qualification]while I was in school. I'm glad I did it. I have no regrets."
With a report from Natalie Stechyson