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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.

 

Soldiers share ‘Tony’ stories

Sarah Elizabeth Brown, Chronicle-Journal, 13 Nov 06

Article Link


Pte. Michael Charlish, right, and Pte. Jeff Trowsdale, second from right, attempt to share some of their culinary skills in Shirley and Antonio Boneca’s kitchen during a dinner at the Boneca residence. Members of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry enjoyed a dinner that was prepared by the Bonecas in the evening following Remembrance Day services. (Sandi Krasowski)


 

In a home left quiet after its only son was killed in Afghanistan this summer, the evening of Remembrance Day brought the sounds of stomping boots and laughing young men back into the Boneca household.

 

As other 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry soldiers did in other towns across the country last weekend, 11 soldiers based in Edmonton visited the parents of Cpl. Anthony “Tony” Joseph Boneca.

 

A dish towel over one shoulder, father Antonio Boneca explained to the tidal wave of dark green uniforms at his door that supper wasn’t ready yet because he’d been held up longer than expected by Remembrance Day duties.

 

The 11 had been over to the Boneca residence the day before for a “snack.” Four hours later, they finally headed out with bellies full to groaning.

 

Antonio and Shirley Boneca, one of three Silver Cross mothers at the north-end ceremony, lost their only son July 9 when he was killed in a mud-walled compound at Pashmul, a village west of Kandahar.

 

Aided by a potato-peeler-wielding Megan DeCorte, the young woman from across the street their son had grown up with and fallen in love with, the Bonecas finished supper while the soldiers told “Tony” stories.

 

Like the one where Tony ripped up a Koosh ball and wore half of it on his head. They’ve got a picture of that piece of silliness in the back of a LAV3.

 

Or the time he fished out a box of Corn Flakes when a section mate was feeling queasy and needed something to throw up into.

Or the one about Tony showing up to pre-Afghanistan training with a sleeveless, skin-tight workout shirt.

 

The general advice from the loose T-shirt-clad PPCLI was not to wear that thing again, said Cpl. KC Richards.

 

Though he arrived at training with his Lake Superior Scottish Regiment nickname of TBone, they just called him Tony.

 

By the time they were in Kandahar and lining up for the individual portraits soldiers call death photos — the pictures the military distributes when a soldier is killed — they were confused when he donned the LSSR’s jaunty balmoral cap with the pom-pom on top.

 

“We were like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re not a Patricia — you’re on loan,’” recalled Pte. Mike Charlish.

 

In a section that renamed itself from 3-2 Charlie to 3-2 Casual, Tony fit right in.

 

They wrote their name on the table he built for their coffee and dinner parties that had other soldiers venturing out to their section’s piece of desert. Tony fancied himself a carpenter, noted Sgt. Matt Gaulden.

 

“We had to level it with sandbags,” he laughed.

 

“By the end we had a weight room,” said Pte. Ryan Doll. “People were leaving base to come hang with us.”

 

One night in Helmand Province — the 18th of 24 days away from a base of any kind — Gaulden returned from collecting orders and told the section a Taliban attack was thought to be imminent.

It was the same thing Gaulden said the previous 17 nights, said Doll.

 

Everyone else was putting on gear and getting ready, said Gaulden.

“Then there’s these two in the back of the LAV,” the sergeant said.

 

“Tony’s like, ‘Let’s rave,’” said Doll.

 

He and Tony slapped some dance music on the LAV’s stereo, broke out the glow sticks and danced in the armoured personnel carrier.

“We could get away with this because we were so far out from the forward operating base,” said Gaulden.

 

Not that 3-2 Casual couldn’t soldier.

 

The tour’s highlight for him was July 8, said Charlish, the day before Tony was killed, when his buddy’s judgment and phenomenal aim on a couple of shots cleared out enemy shooters.

 

Besides speaking with Boneca’s parents and attending remembrance events, the 11 PPCLI brought a small piece of the gregarious young soldier home.

 

When Boneca was shot July 9, his helmet and body armour were left behind until a day-long bombardment of the compound where two Taliban fighters holed up was over.

 

The helmet looks like it’s had millions upon millions of dollars’ worth — Charlish thinks billions — of bombs dropped on it. And by the time they retrieved it after the second Taliban fighter was captured alive, it had.

 

“For me, it symbolizes our retaliation,” said Charlish.

 

The trashed helmet and a photo of Boneca in the mountains of Afghanistan were encased and presented to the LSSR, to be displayed in the Park Avenue Armoury’s front entrance.


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