LITTLE BAY, NL — It has been 10 long years since a small family from a tiny Newfoundland and Labrador community received word that their only son and brother, Cpl. Stephen Bouzane, was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.
The Bouzanes are doing “OK” now, says the father of that family from Little Bay — a small Green Bay town located in Notre Dame Bay.
Fred and his wife Moureen are in Curtis, Ont. helping their daughter Kelly and her family relocate. It is a common thing for parents to do — assist in a transition that often brings a certain level of upheaval to one’s life.
For this family, upheaval is something they know all too well, and this adjustment pales in comparison to the one they endured June 20, 2007.
Cpl. Bouzane was born in Little Bay, but grew up in Scarborough, Ont. He was killed with two other young soldiers — Pte. Joel Vincent and Sgt. Christos Karrigiannis — while they were transporting supplies on a well-travelled checkpoint near the town of Sperwan Ghar, southwest of Kandahar.
Despite being raised in Ontario, Cpl. Bouzane was buried in Little Bay at his request.
“We are doing OK,” Fred said via telephone from Curtis this week. “It gets easier with time, but you still remember, especially during times like Remembrance Day.”
Fred’s voice started out strong and confident, but grew weaker and displayed sadness the more he talked about his son and the grief the family has dealt with since his death.
“OK” could have been considered an overstatement or possibly exactly how it sounds. After a decade, they are still only OK with time.
In conjunction with the Royal Canadian Legion, there are signs commemorating Cpl. Bouzane in St. Alban’s, where Fred and Moureen live, and in Springdale, the main hub where students from these small towns attend school. A street is named after the fallen soldier in Springdale. The school he went to in Scarborough has remained in contact with the Bouzanes over the years.
These are examples of the tremendous support the family received from the military community and people all over in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed the tragedy.
“It means a lot, because it does keep his memory alive and honours him and all the vets,” his father said. “It reminds people of the Afghan war.”
All those things have helped the family come to grips with the loss, but the void never goes away. The soldier would be 36 years of age now, and the what-ifs are impossible to ignore.
“You think about stuff like that all the time, wondering what he would be doing — if he would still be in the military or if he would be married and have kids,” his dad said. “It comes in your mind all the time.”
Fred says those things are much more trying for his wife and daughter.
There is still a consuming sadness, but there is no regret for the Bouzanes, according to Fred. Their son wanted to join the military, and fighting the war in Afghanistan was part of that decision.
“He wanted to try to make a difference in the world,” his dad said. “That was his way. Unfortunately, he died, but I am a firm believer in that you die when your number is called. It wouldn’t have made no difference what he was at, he would have died at that time anyway.”
In 2016, Fred was at the Springdale Remembrance Day ceremony and placed a wreath in Cpl. Bouzane’s memory. This year, the occasion was observed in Ontario.
“It do get a bit emotional,” Fred said, this part of the interview seemingly a little more difficult. “It brings back all the memories, especially the part where they play the bugles.”
They are not all sad memories though. The Bouzanes are cherishing the life that came to end too soon to answer those life questions of what could have been. They celebrate Stephen’s life and appreciate the support they have received over the years from so many.
As evident by their semi-working vacation with their daughter, it is the tightness of this small family that got them through the experience. It is family that remains so important today.