Under an autumn sky and warm sunny day, thousands of people lined the streets leading to Christ's Church Cathedral in downtown Hamilton's James Street North. They were clamouring moments while they quietly awaited the funeral procession for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who was shot and killed while in Ottawa ceremoniously guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.
Two policemen mounted on their regal black horses stood at attention in front of the gothic styled Christ’s Church Cathedral throughout the waiting for the procession from the Argyll Commemorative Pavilion at Bayfront Park to the church.
Dignitaries included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, leaders of the political parties and a great presence of the Federal and Provincial Governments…and many more.
The fire department flew a humungous Maple Leaf flag atop two high ladders along the procession route. I noted also a small rectangle positioned on the lower left of my television screen which rotated pictures of the flag wafting in the breeze, then a face photo of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Argyll uniform, followed by the CHCH TV logo and continually rotating.
As the thousands of people lining the streets stood in silence, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (in Hamilton) sent a Mitchell B-25 twin-engine bomber on a couple ‘flypasts’ prior to the precision military marching of the local Regiment of the Argyll Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise), the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and OPP (Ontario Provincial Police). Military bands and police services from across Ontario marched in the procession…many of them gathering inside First Ontario Centre (a nearby sports arena) along with hundreds and hundreds of mourners …all being able to view and hear the regimental military service at Christ’s Church Cathedral. Bag-pipers and drummers preceded another contingent of the Argyll soldiers followed by the drawn flag-draped-casket on a gun carriage. Markus, Nathan's 5-year old son dressed in black suit and wearing an Argyll cap walked hand in hand with his aunt along the full procession route. He reminded me so greatly of John F. Kennedy's little boy as he walked in his father's funeral procession.
Argyll’s Chaplain (Reverend Canon Robert Fead), a Roman Catholic Bishop, Anglican Bishop of the Niagara Diocese and the priest of Christ's Church Cathedral delivered well-scripted messages of consolation, compassion and encouragement. Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister spoke eloquently reminding us that “Freedom is not free; it is earned by the soldier and donated to all of us.”
The Prime Minister’s delivered speech, so profound, I’ll post in a few days.
Jenny Holland, Nathan’s cousin, shed a spirit of lightness into this solemn ceremony…with incidents of his childhood and teenage years. She commented that he was a keen cadet, a successful and dedicated soldier… “because he had the best drill-sergeant in the world ~ his mother!”
Lawrence Hatfield ~ Commanding Officer of the Argylls ~ addressed Cirillo’s overwhelmed family directly. “We cannot possibly imagine the grief you are experiencing today. But I want to thank you for allowing us…the entire country of Canada…to share in that grief at the loss of a brave young soldier. But now, he is ‘Canada’s Son’.
“Death is not in vain,” he said, “ because Canada now stands ‘more unified.’
Speaking to Cirillo directly, he said, “All military stand prouder and taller this day!”
He told the mourners, “The two best words to describe Cirillo are Strength and Character. The qualities required to be a military soldier with the Argyll Sutherland Highlanders of Canada are ‘Humanity, Fitness and Toughness, Willingness to enter the Fray; plus the combination of Character, Compassion and Style…all of which Cpl. Nathan Cirillo had in abundance.”
He then bade ‘Farewell’ to’ Canada’s Son’ as he goes to his final resting place.
Following the 2¾ hour ceremonial military service, people solemnly filed out from Christ's Church Cathedral. The two black horses with their mounted police guards still stood at attention. The cortege of green funereal vehicles slowly proceeded toward “The Field of Honour” in Woodland Cemetery.
An Emotional Don Cherry Asks us not to Forget Slain Soldiers
Below this title is a photo of Nathan Cirillo with one of his loving 'rescue dogs'.
Don Cherry praised Canadians for their outpouring of support for the terrorist deaths of two Canadian soldiers in the past two weeks in Ottawa. But in his weekly 'Coach's Corner' segment on “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday, the outspoken hockey commentator pleaded with people about all Canadian soldiers injured in combat.
“I'm not putting anybody down, but maybe in about 2 or 3 weeks it will all be forgotten...just like the war in Afghanistan (where Cirillo had been deployed also).We'll forget about the wounded guys, with no arms, no legs, blinded and stuff like that. We'll go on,” Cherry said.
Dressed uncharacteristically understated in a plain dark suit ~ with red poppy and matching red tie ~ Cherry dedicated the entire segment to slain soldiers. The emotional Cherry looked on the verge of tears as he spoke about Cirillo...shown in photographs with his son Marcus and two rescue dogs. “What a beautiful guy! That dog would have been put to death if Nathan hadn't gotten hold of him. People that rescue dogs like that are unbelievable.
He spoke about how Patrice Vincent (from Quebec) was an organ donor and gave up all his organs so that other people can live. It's unbelievable that the two guys that were killed was because they were soldiers. It's hard to believe!
Cherry spoke about Kevin Vickers, Parliament's Sergeant-at-arms who shot and killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. “Terrific, what a guy, stepped up to the plate and did the job that had to be done,” Cherry said over the footage of the long standing ovation Vickers received in the House of Commons the next day.
It was already an emotional night of hockey. “Hockey Night in Canada” opened with a touching video montage of the slain soldiers that included footage of the thousands of people who lined the Highway of Heroes on Friday. Then fans stood and sang “O Canada” simultaneously in three rinks in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
Don Cherry is very concerned about the country's injured war veterans. “If you think so much of them...and I know you do...I'm sure Corporal Nathan and Patrice would want you to do this ~ help the wounded.
The emotional segment ended with video footage of Cirillo's casket arriving home in Hamilton to the sound of bag-pipes...and Cherry's final words: “God love them!”
Merle Baird-Kerr...submitted October 28, 2014
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