On a beautiful Wednesday morning in October, two Canadian soldiers went to pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa. Both men, members of the Sutherland Highlanders of Hamilton, surely did not imagine that this was a dangerous duty. The honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a ceremonial position and it is considered a privilege and an honour to be selected for it. The mere presence of these two soldiers at this sacred place is a sign of the deep respect their commanders had for them. Because it is a ceremonial position, the weapons the soldiers carry are not loaded. And so, there on sacred ground, two soldiers stood unarmed, paying tribute to those brave men who fell protecting our freedom in faraway places so many years ago.
On this beautiful Wednesday morning in October, a Canadian soldier lost his life while carrying out his duties – gunned down by a terrorist coward. Corporal Nathan Cirillo was a young father. He was a soldier. Pictures show him with his beloved dogs, having fun, looking strong and handsome. Not twenty-four hours earlier, near Montréal, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was run down and killed by another coward. Neither terrorist will be mentioned by name in this post.
The majority of Canadians did not personally know Cpl Cirillo or WO Vincent, but we mourn them. We mourn them not just because they were great men of courage, but because we see in them our brother, our father, our husband, our friend. We mourn them because their lives ended too soon. We mourn them because it is men like Cpl Cirillo and WO Vincent who make Canada great. As Cpl Cirillo’s family said in a statement late Friday afternoon, he was “Canada’s son.” This is why, on Friday, with but a few hours notice, thousands of Canadians lined overpasses stretching from Ottawa to Hamilton to pay their respects. I also stood on one of these overpasses with my son. We stood with people from all walks of life, with policemen, firefighters, paramedics, veterans, young, old, people of many races and religions, all to recognize Cpl Cirillo’s ultimate sacrifice. From this overpass, at the height of rush hour in the largest city in Canada, we watched the 401 come to a standstill and the entire Westbound lanes clear as the Ontario Provincial Police escorted Corporal Cirillo to his final resting place. People clapped, people stood at attention, some shed a tear. One thing is clear: For every one of us that terrorists kill there are a thousand more. We are not scared. We are not afraid to fight. You will never beat us.
Rest In Peace Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent. You are loved.