By Tara Brautigam, The Canadian Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Col. Geoff Parker was a target of opportunity in an indiscriminate, desperate attack that sacrificed civilians in order to strike at NATO, the Canadian military said Thursday as it bade farewell to a respected officer, the most senior victim of the mission to date.

Two days after the deadly car bombing in Kabul, about 1,500 military and civilian personnel stood in silence at Kandahar Airfield as Parker’s flag-draped casket was hoisted onto the back of a Hercules military plane to begin its journey to Canada.

In a profession known for its strict pecking order, Parker stood out with his unrelenting attitude and his refusal to defer to superiors when he believed he was right, said a colleague who had known him for 20 years.

“Even in his very early years in the army, Geoff was the kind of fellow that wouldn’t compromise,” said Lt.-Col. Conrad Mialkowski, who got to know Parker in 1991 when they were platoon commanders together with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

“If something was stupid, he would say it and use that kind of language. And we had challenging bosses over the years who Geoff wouldn’t always agree with and he certainly would address those.”

But Parker had the rare ability of correcting others without putting them down, Mialkowski added.

“He would point it out in either a humorous way or in a logical way so that whoever he was being critical of would get the point without being embarrassed about it.”

The 42-year-old Parker, a native of Oakville, Ont., died Tuesday when a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy during morning rush-hour in the Afghan capital. The attack, the deadliest for NATO in Kabul in eight months, also killed five U.S. soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians.

A repatriation ceremony was scheduled to take place Friday at CFB Trenton.

Parker, as he was known to his wife Mary Jane, was a best friend and a great father to his two kids, Charlie and Alex, his “loving bride” said in a heartfelt statement released Thursday by the Canadian Forces.