Oshawa summer camp honours its fallen hero

By 
  • July 21, 2009
{mosimage}OSHAWA, Ont. - For nine-year-old Noelle Irani, the joys of summer camp with Our Lady of Lebanon Church have been about friends, swimming and roasting marshmallows near the campfire.

But this year, amid the games, laughter in the pool and soccer balls in the air, the usual sounds and sights of summer have also been accompanied by moments of silence and tears of remembrance for fallen trooper Marc Diab.

Diab had been the camp leader for the last five years. He was scheduled to return home after a six-month tour of duty with the Canadian army in Afghanistan. But three weeks before his arrival, the 22-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar on March 8.

This year, the camp which ran from July 8 to 12 at Oshawa's Kedron Park, has been renamed in Diab's honour. His parents, Hani and Jihan, raised funds through the Marc Diab Children's Foundation to subsidize the cost for summer campers this year.

It's about keeping his memory alive, says his father.

Noelle, who is wearing a t-shirt with Diab's photo like all the campers, sits among friends during lunchtime and says this year's camp isn't the same without Diab.

“I really miss him,” she said. “He was my best friend.”

Noelle remembers how Diab taught them about discipline, but also knew how to have fun. He let them have a lot of free time for games, she said. And he also taught them his favourite motto: “Adapt and overcome.”

About 100 campers joined the camp this year, several for the first time who said they wanted to come to honour their parish's “hero.”

Diab's mother says it's been a difficult four months since Diab's death. But she adds that what she's learned from her son is about being strong in faith. Faith was very important to Marc, she said. A poignant reminder is the rosary embedded in the helmet he was wearing during the attack which the military just recently discovered and is sending to his family.

Jihan beams with pride as she talks about her son. He always looked out for her, she said, told her not to worry and asked for prayers during their MSN chats when he was in Afghanistan.

“Just looking at the kids and not seeing him here ....” Jihan begins, amid free-flowing tears.

Being here has also helped her learn more about her son.

Some of Diab's friends from the military came to the camp and have been sharing stories about him. Cpl. Brian Beebee knew Diab for about three years. He says it was important for him to be at the camp and support his family.
       
Diab's sense of humour helped boost morale during the mission, Beebee said: “He's the guy who lights up the room.”

Diab lived by his principles, Beebee said, and his strong belief in freedom. He spoke about living through Lebanon's civil war as a child and how important it was to preserve and fight for freedom, Beebee added.

For Diab's longtime girlfriend, Mary Barakat, the camp is a way for friends, family and the parish to honour his contribution to the Lebanese Catholic community. Diab volunteered at the camp because he wanted “to be someone to look up to, to make a difference,” said Barakat, 21, who is wearing the promise ring given to her by Diab.

Barakat said she saw Diab live out his faith in the way he treated others. The camp, she said, is a way to honour the witness he had given to them.

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