Thursday, March 27, 2008
WADE NKRUMAH and MICHAEL ROLLINS
The Oregonian Staff
Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Canham loved playing and officiating paintball games in his hometown of Lake Stevens, Wash.
But equally important, Canham, 21, was responsible enough that Ezra Frenzel entrusted him for a short time to oversee operation of his Lake Stevens business, ForestFire Paintball.
"In '06, I went away to school out of state for a semester, and he ran the field for me while I was gone," Frenzel said Wednesday. "He did all the management, coordinated all the refs. He was completely in charge of it."
Canham died Sunday in what the U.S. Department of Defense describes as a nonhostile incident in Djibouti, an African country that borders the Red Sea. He was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.
He was serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes the war in Afghanistan as well as anti-terrorism operations in Africa.
Maj. Thomas Gagnon of the Portland-based battalion said Canham was assigned to a security unit. Gagnon declined to provide specific information about Canham, such as when he was deployed, the scheduled length of deployment or his duties.
He also declined to say whether others from the battalion were sent to Djibouti.
The Department of Defense said Canham's death is being investigated. Further details were unavailable Wednesday.
Canham's older brother, Mitch, was a key player in Oregon State University's 2006 and 2007 National Collegiate Athletic Association College World Series baseball teams. He played minor league baseball last summer for the Eugene Emeralds and spent spring training with the San Diego Padres.
Mitch Canham could not be reached for comment, but Oregon State coach Pat Casey said the baseball team has "been in communication with Mitch."
"He is well aware of our team's concern," Casey said. "He knows the team is praying for him and his brother. It is just a tragedy. We all realize how tight he was with his brother, especially after his mother had passed."
The Canhams' mother, Kimi Lee Kendall Canham, died Sept. 29, 2003, in Spokane of a drug overdose. She was 40. It was the day before Mitch Canham began classes as a freshman at Oregon State.
Frenzel, who had known Dustin Canham since 2003, said paintball was "a big part of his life." He said Canham was a captain of a ForestFire team that competed nationally.
"He was such an honest kid, and he had such a good heart," Frenzel said, describing Canham as caring, outgoing and positive.
"It was extremely rare that you'd see him down or discouraged," Frenzel said.
In a March 18 post on ForestFire's Web site, Canham seemed to be taking his new surroundings in stride.
"Anyone ever been to Djibouti?" he wrote. "I've only been here for three days. It's hot. Very, very hot. And its only spring. But the food is AMAZING and I spent a good 30 minutes interacting with some civilians. A large family with lots of hyper kids. Kinda felt good to see kids playin' and havin' fun."