The deadliest foe facing NATO soldiers travelling the roads of this war-torn nation claimed two more Canadian lives Sunday.

A powerful roadside bomb blast hit an armoured vehicle that was part of a Canadian convoy on a road southwest of Kandahar, bringing to 129 the total number of Canadian soldiers who have died as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

Killed in the explosion were 36-year-old Maj. Yannick Pepin and Cpl. Jean-Francois Drouin, 21 who were killed by an the IED explosion around noon local time in the Dand district.

Both men were members of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment and were stationed in Valcartier, Que.

Ramp ceremony

More than a thousand Canadian, U-S, Dutch and British soldiers turned out in the bright Afghanistan sunshine for a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield Monday to pay tribute to the two fallen soldiers.

The soldiers stood quietly as the flag-draped coffins were loaded aboard a C-130 for the long flight home.

"Today the entire task force is mourning our fallen comrades," an emotional Col. Roch Lacroix, deputy commander for Task Force Kandahar said late Sunday night with the cenotaph marking each of Canada's fallen soldiers clearly visible in the background.

"Saying goodbye to Yannick and Jean-Francois so prematurely is hard for me, it is hard for their friends, and it's hard for their families," Col. Lacroix said.

"Engineers like Yannick and Jean-Francois....put in a great deal of effort in Afghanistan where they're denying the ability of the insurgents to kill innocent victims on a large scale or simply reconstructing a bridge, roads, schools with their Afghan partners."

Five others were also injured but their conditions are not serious said Lacroix, who noted one had already been released from hospital.

IED Menace

The IEDs have been the cause of death in the large majority of Canada's battlefield casualties. They are cheap, easy to make and allow the Taliban to exact a high price on NATO troops without ever having to show their faces.

Col. Lacroix spoke fondly of the two fallen warriors.

"Nothing comes easy here and it takes patience and determination - two qualities that both men embodied. Today is the time to grieve but tomorrow we will continue our work to better the lives of Afghans."

Pepin had been in the Canadian Forces for a decade and took great pride in the mission and was devoted to helping and supporting his troops. He leaves behind his partner Annie and two children - Alexandra and Charles.

Small acts of kindness

Pepin also possessed human values and remarkable compassion explained Col. Lacroix.

"Proof of this was when he was on patrol once and stopped his vehicle to take a kite out of the antenna from his vehicle. He handed it to the small Afghan child who thought it had been lost. That day he carried a big grin," remembered Col. Lacroix.

"Yannick was a man of action who was always involved in things and put his personal interests second. We miss him enormously."

'Big Drou' remembered

Drouin was already showing great promise with his military career. He was known as 'Big Drou' to his friends and remembered as somone who liked to make others laugh.

"Jean-Francois was a very generous man with a big heart," Col. Lacroix said. "As big a heart as the three pieces of steel he liked to lift in the gymnasium."

Drouin was an exemplary soldier who was able to show his capacities as a leader when he had the occasion," said Col. Lacroix.

"He received an accelerated promotion to corporal just before coming out on what was sadly his last mission."

Drouin is survived by his partner Audrey.