I was quite moved today, watching the funeral service for Corporal Nathan Cirillo. This young man was gunned down last Wednesday while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario.
His death most certainly galvanized the Canadian spirit. I have never seen Canadians be more patriotic. As our Prime Minster noted, “Cirillo is Canada’s son”. Thousands of people lined the streets of Hamilton, Ontario to “be there” when Cirillo was laid to rest. Why did they want to be there? What was it about this young man that was so compelling? Freedom is not free – it comes at a cost.
He was young. He was only 25. It is more than criminal that he was taken at such a young age. My own son is only five years younger. I could not imagine anything more painful than losing a child – let alone a child whose life was randomly and unexpectedly taken by another young man plagued by mental illness. Two young men, in any other circumstance may have been friends. But this encounter was far from friendship. It had been a death framed by the titles of soldier and murderer. How can a mother survive such injustice? Nathan’s Mother, Kathy, remained composed from the moment the press began to cover her initial reaction to the time when her son’s body left to be buried. She prayed for the family of her son’s murdered. The freedom of Canadians is not free: it came at the cost of a son.
He was a father to a young boy, Marcus, who is only five years old. Stephen Harper’s wish for this boy was that one day he would understand that all of Canada looked up to his father. Marcus, no doubt, has no clue what that means at this point in his life. What must he think, though, when there is no Dad to tuck him into bed at night, to cry to when he has had a rough day at school, or to toss him into the air and catch him to land safely on the ground once more? Freedom of Canadians is not free – it came at the cost of innocence.
He was a friend to many of his fellow soldiers. It would seem that he was well respected among his peers and enjoyed himself while with them. He would have told jokes, shared stories, and played sports with them. This solidarity among friends is so very precious. I remember my Dad talking to me about his war-time buddies and how they used to get into mischief from time to time. They played cards, they went out dancing, and they shared jokes. The only time I ever saw my Dad cry, when I was growing up, was during Remembrance Day services. I never knew why he was crying – until I was older. He recalled friends that were killed during the war by name. He missed their friendship and mourned their deaths. Freedom for Canadians is not free: it comes at a cost of friends.
He was a soldier. He was shot dead at one of Canada’s most reverent places: the National War Memorial. He was unarmed. The attack was not expected. It is just not right. Is “this” random attack the new kind of warfare? Where does pride, honour, respect come in? Dad’s war was declared. It was defined. It was clear who he was fighting and how. Nathan’s killer did not follow the rules of engagement. How can a person fight a battle where the enemy, the rules, the entire game and purpose is so unclear? He was side-swiped. It really could have been any one of us who was targeted. Freedom for Canadians is not free: it comes at a cost of life.
The most precious values include family, friends, innocence, and life. On this day – we recognize these are the costs of our freedoms and thank those who have paid the price.