July 6, 2009 Rest in Peace Corporal Nicholas Bulger.
The Highway Of Heroes.
Once bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan are returned to Canada, they make the trip from the Trenton Airbase to Toronto for an autopsy. As readers will know, the stretch of the 401 highway they travel on has recently been named the Highway of Heroes, as citizens and emergency personnel regularly converge on overpasses to honour the dead. Here's one tale of one of those solemn trips.
-- Paul Russell, NP letters editor
I had the honour of attending the Repatriation Ceremony for our fallen heroes last night at 8 Wing Trenton, and, although words cannot possibly do justice to this heart-wrenching experience, I thought it important for you to be aware of the overwhelming--and I mean overwhelming--support provided by law enforcement, fire services, ambulance services and, indeed, the public at large, provided for this very solemn occasion.
The procession included over twenty vehicles and had to be at least one km in length. Cpl Whelan, SLt Blackmore, and I were in the rear escort MP vehicle. I could not believe my eyes as we made the solemn journey from 8 Wing to the Coroner’s Office in Toronto. We were escorted by at least six or seven OPP cars and two motorcycles
until we arrived in Toronto, and then Durham Regional Police, and then Toronto Police Services picked up the escort/traffic control duties.
Every overpass along the almost 200 kms of Hwy 401 had emergency services vehicles with lights flashing, members saluting, and citizens waving Canadian flags. Every on ramp had a police vehicle blocking traffic, with members standing by the vehicles saluting. Entire police detachments stood along the route, saluting in front of their vehicles.
Firehalls had their trucks out, with their members in full dress uniform out front paying respects to our comrades. People stopped their cars along the side of the road, got out and saluted or held their hands over their hearts. As we neared downtown, the streets were lined with crowds
waving Canadian flags and paying their respects. The outpouring of support for our fallen heroes and their families was beyond belief; never before have I been as proud to wear this uniform.
I’m sure you can imagine what traffic in Canada’s largest city is like on a summer Sunday night, with people coming home from the cottage, or otherwise winding down their weekend. The procession made it from Trenton to downtown Toronto completely unimpeded in approximately one and half hours--a minor miracle when you think about it.
When we finally arrived in Toronto, I had the opportunity to meet some of the members from the downtown core Division of Toronto Metro Police, shaking their hands and thanking them for their support. It was absolutely incredible!
CWO Day and 8 Wing MP team here, and WO Denison and his team from 2 MPU Toronto, did an outstanding job coordinating this event from a police/security perspective, thereby facilitating a very dignified ceremony for our fallen comrades and their families, and a very dignified journey to the Coroner’s Office. Their professionalism and dedication cannot be overstated and they are worthy of special recognition. I also met briefly with the CFNIS members at the Coroner’s officer and they, too, shone as dedicated professionals. We can be justifiably proud of our MP personnel.
Finally, this would not have been possible without the OUTSTANDING support of our fellow police officers from the OPP and Toronto Police Services. All of the police officers who supported this solemn occasion -- and I would put a very conservative estimate at over 500 -- did so on their own time. They were volunteers. The Ontario Provincial Police (in particular Quinte West Det and Whitby Detachments), Durham Regional Police, and Toronto Metro Police -- they all deserve special mention for their outstanding efforts and their amazing show of support.
I truly believe that a phone call to Commissioner Fantino, Chief Ewles, and Chief Blair, or perhaps even a short note of thanks is in order.
This experience will remain with me for the rest of my life. I truly hope I never get the opportunity again; however, should such a tragedy once again befall our brave soldiers, sailor and airmen/women, it is comforting to know that Canada’s quiet patriotism is very much alive and well -- the torch burns bright and strong.
J.A. (Jim) Legere, Lieutenant-Colonel, A3 Force Protection & Provost Marshal 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarte
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