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London - Burial of a Fallen Hero



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Old October 18th, 2006, 16:24   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: London, Ontario
London - Burial of a Fallen Hero

Our brothers and sisters of the Canadian Armed Forces.

In case you ever had any doubts about the place you hold in our hearts and minds. Let me express to you an experience I had with the burial of a Canadian soldier who died in Afghanistan.

On monday, October 16th, a week after Thanksgiving I had the responsibility of overseeing the burial of Trooper Mark Wilson at St. Peter's Cemetery in London. Many people in Airsoft know me as "Stonewall", sometimes "Cully". In real life, I am head of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese of London and Manager of St. Peter's Cemetery. Permit me to express to you all what it meant to be involved in an event none of us ever want to experience, the death and burial of a soldier who has fallen in the line of duty. Forgive me if my account is dramatic. But it was, and forever will be, one of the saddest days of my life.

I took photos before and after for our archives. Four I share with you. I took none during the service as it would have been inappropriate and I was much directly involved.

A week before, October 10th, we received word Trooper Wilson, Royal Canadian Dragoons, killed by a roadside bomb, would come home to London. From that moment forward we began to put in place all the arrangements to take care of this fine young man and family. I wanted it to be a proper tribute worthy of a hero, a father, a son, a brother, a husband.

Absolutely nothing was left out. As was fitting, the family received the best possible care. Personally, this was very important to me. My Grandmother's family gave up their only son in WWI for a piece of dirt in France called Hill 70. In 1952, when my Grandfather a US Marine in WWI died, my grandmother did not have the funds. He was buried in a crummy cloth casket in an unmarked spot. I swore on his grave, that only best would do for any soldier and his family that ever came under my care.

Most of all, because of the profound respect and esteem for those who serve. You are our best. Only the best will do.

Come monday morning after a week of rain, a beautiful fall day dawned. By request of family the place of burial had been kept quiet. The night before neighbours and friends had stopped by in the dark of night and placed yellow ribbons everywhere in tribute of a young man they had known since childhood.

A new flag was lowered. The area made spotless. A stainless steel vault, a soldiers vault, waited to receive the casket. At 11am the same time the funeral started in the church, the sun came out and a ray of light shone on the vault and made it glow a brilliant light. The Irish in me whispered; "The angels themselves have come to usher this young man to a greater place."

The church was packed with over 1,000 family and friends. Outside, complete strangers sobbed and wept. They did not know him, but they had to be there. After, along the procession route, school children stood by the road with Canadian flags. Yellow badges of honour marked the 5 km route from church to cemetery. The entire City of London, young to old mourned this loss of a son. Trooper Wilson was the first soldier in the history of the city killed overseas to ever come home. All paid tribute. All felt the pain.

The hearse was met at the cemetery by an honour guard from CFB Petawawa. The piper began to play"Going Home". Tears began to flow. The final moments had come. My heart broke. The part of me that was a father, and a Canadian, wept for this young man. His family. His friends and his mates. These were nice people. To witness suffering of this magnitude was physically painful. Bad things should not happen to nice people. But it did. And here we were.

At "High Carry", his comrades bore him to a grave beside the flag pole. In the shadow of the flag. Gentley they placed the casket on the straps that would lower him to his final rest.

The service, retrieval of the flag. Presentation of the flag to the family. The Bugler's lament. Precise and clean. Perfect. The men and women in uniform did themselves proud on this day. On this day. This day of days.

When the final moment came the head of the burial party gave me a nod. I knelt down at the head of the casket and turned the switch to begin the descent of the body of a warrior son, for all eternity, into the vault, and embrace of mother earth.

Service at a conclusion the crowd began to disperse. The family home to a life now without a beloved son. His comrades to a table with an empty chair.

As they were leaving I met his father. We shook hands. There wasn't much to say. Nothing special I could do. No pain I could take away. Except one small thing. One small and heartfelt gesture of consolation. I said. "I will take care of him. He is in good hands now."

God bless you all. We are always with you.

Last edited by Stonewall; January 10th, 2007 at 20:57..
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Old October 18th, 2006, 19:30   #2
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Lest we forget.
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Old October 18th, 2006, 20:20   #3
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Stonewall thank you for your words and care, I've been on the "sending" side more than once and it gives me a sense of relief that there is somebody like yourself on the "receiving" side. This coming weekend I will be attending the funeral of one of my former officers and I can only hope the people that we are transferring his care to are as bound to duty as you are.
Thank you again.
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Old October 18th, 2006, 22:52   #4
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As you know my friend, it never gets easy. You would honour me if you could share this with your mates and let them know a lot of people besides myself think of them every day and care very much. God Bless.

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Old October 19th, 2006, 00:37   #5
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Wow, im at a loss for words stonewall. This rememberance day is realy going to hit harder than any other for me personaly. We have lost so many good men and women, I hope that all were treated with such respect as you showed.
To live is to Die
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Old October 19th, 2006, 00:50   #6
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Well said.
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Old October 19th, 2006, 01:02   #7
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Having known 3 of our Soldiers who have come home in a similar matter, one of whom taught me on GMT all those years ago, that make brings a tear to my eye Stone. Thanks dude.
Douglas Alexander Maxwell (Known pedophile).
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Old October 19th, 2006, 09:44   #8
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I was thinking of you alot and what you went through. Given my line of work, I am hesitant to make any statements about what people regard as spiritual. However two things happened regarding this burial that were very unusual. Was there something special and unusual going on that day? I don't know. Here is what happened. You decide.

The first was while we were digging the grave. We had been extremely concerned about water. For the last week the rain had been very heavy. So much so that the graves had been filling up and caving in. One grave, only 20 yards away had actually "liquified", meaning saturation was so bad the sandy soil took liquid form. 3 foot graves became 10 foot wide graves. All physical facts were against us. The grounds supervisor told me that it was absolutely certain there would be alot of water. Yet, when we dug the grave, it was almost bone dry. I crouched down and looked closely at the soil. You could see a little seeping, like you would see behind a damn holding back a great deal of water.

Secondly, I was making a final inspection of the area at 11am. The very hour of the funeral mass. The sun came out and began to reflect on the stainless steel vault lid just above Trooper Wilson's name. You can see this in the photo. It was brilliant light that hurt the eyes. I truly thought to myself; "God has sent his angels". "They are here". The light stayed for some time and then was gone.

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