Greg Matters and Ryan Seguin met nearly 20 years ago while shining their boots during battle school in Shilo, Man., forging a friendship that would last a lifetime.
As young soldiers they roomed together, Matters was the best man at Seguin's wedding and was the godfather to Seguin's twin children. This morning, Seguin will honour his best friend by presenting the Memorial Cross to Greg's mother Lorraine and Greg's sister Tracey.
"It's a great honour for me to be here and to be able to do that for them, and for him too," Seguin, now a warrant officer based in Gagetown, N.B. "It's a recognition that his mission overseas had a lot of impact and a lot of value."
Matters was shot and killed by a member of the RCMP's emergency response team a year ago on his family's property in Pineview after a dispute between Greg and his brother escalated into a serious police incident. The provincial Independent Investigations Office ruled earlier this year that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the shooting. A coroner's inquest will begin next month to take another look at the events leading up to the shooting and make recommendations to ensure similar incidents never happen again.
The Memorial Cross, also known as the Silver Cross, is presented to family members of veterans who died as a result of active duty or whose death can be attributed to active duty. Although Matters died years after leaving the armed forces, he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the time of the police shooting and it played a large role in the events leading up to his death. He acquired the PTSD during his time with military, including service overseas in Bosnia.
Paired together in the same group during their early trade training with the Canadian military, Matters and Seguin quickly hit it off. During their first weekend off during battle school training, they went out for beers together and bonded during the challenging air defence training sessions.
They were deployed together to Chatham, Ont., then to Gagetown, where they were roommates for over a year before Seguin got married.
Over the years, Matters was a regular visitor at Seguin's house, helping out with Seguin's twin children Lance and Kennedy.
"If they had a birthday party and I wasn't there, he'd always go and help out because it was always two birthdays at once," Seguin said. "He always, always found time to stop in and see if anyone needed anything."
Helping others was a large part of Matters' personality, even when he was deployed to Bosnia. Since air defence wasn't a major concern in the Balkans, Matters and Seguin were re-trained in how to drive Grizzly armored personnel carriers.
"Whenever the forces would come around all the little kids would come around and look for treats," Seguin said. "We'd have box lunches and Greg would steal all of the things out of our lunches and [give them to the kids]. It was no big deal for us, we were going back to the base anyway."
Seguin received a promotion shortly before the deployment, so the pair weren't together the entire time they were overseas. Although they talked about their experiences upon their return, Seguin said he can't pinpoint any incident that caused Matters' PTSD. In fact he didn't know about his friend's condition until after Matters' death.
"There was never anything that stood out," Seguin said. "He didn't seem troubled by anything when we were talking about our experiences."
Seguin first noticed something was up with Matters in 2007 when the rest of the group was sent to western Canada for training exercises in advance of being sent to Afghanistan. Due to a back injury, Matters was left behind.
"I knew that hurt him a lot," Seguin said. "Everything we had done up to that point in our careers we had done together."
Before he left for Afghanistan, Seguin took Matters out for lunch in Gagetown.
"I bought lunch and I said, 'Don't forget when I come back you're going to buy me lunch,' " Seguin said. "That was basically our last time together."
Once Seguin was in Afghanistan, he regularly sent Matters email updates on how things were going and although he knew Matters was receiving the correspondence, Matters never replied.
Matters eventually went to Seguin's wife and children and told them he was going to have to leave Gagetown and probably wouldn't be able to contact them for a while.
"I personally thought he was just embarrassed that he wasn't training," Seguin said. "Never once did I think there were mental issues at all. I thought he was just ashamed he wasn't with the boys."
Seguin was in Kingston, Ont., in training last year when he heard the news of Matters' death through a friend on Facebook.
"I was just beside myself. I couldn't believe that happened here, in Canada," he said.
When the military decided to award the Memorial Cross to Matters' closest family members, his sister Tracey and others knew immediately that they wanted Seguin to make the presentation.
The two families had never met - Seguin had made plans to travel with Matters to B.C. when they were young soldiers on leave, but it never happened. When he arrived in Prince George on Monday, the family soon saw why Seguin and Matters were so close for so long.
"It's uncanny the similarities that Ryan and Greg have," Tracey said. "Even their personalities, they're both soft-spoken and there's a gentleness to them. It's uncanny and a bit haunting."
Seguin said he received support both from the military to get the time off to present the award and from the Wounded Warriors organization to make sure the trip happened.
"That's what Greg would have wanted and we thought it would be very touching and very special," Tracey said. "It's going to make [the ceremony] even more special and more memorable."