A hearse carried the body of Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron through the Highway of Heroes Tuesday evening. Police cars and an EMS bus lit up the Victoria Park overpass with their flashing lights. A crowd gathered to pay its respects adorned the bridge with flags, big and small, some tied to hockey sticks, others to poles.
Bob Chalmers, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 66 poppy chairman, was handing out poppies to everyone waiting. “It’s tradition to wear poppies during funerals of veterans,” he said, “I think the people who come out to the bridges are patriots and do whatever they have to do to show their patriotism.”
Doiron, 31, of Moncton, N.B. and a member of the Petawawa-based Canadian Special Operations Regiment, was killed in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq last Friday.
His body was flown home yesterday to CFB Trenton where a repatriation ceremony was held before the funeral procession headed west along Highway 401 – the Highway of Heroes – to Toronto and the coroner’s office.
“The repatriation ceremony is not an age old tradition,” Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps, said. The procedure of bringing home the body of a fallen soldier started after the Korean War, and the ceremonial salute from civilians began with the mission in Afghanistan.
North York resident Norval Porter had been waiting for 45 minutes to pay his respects. “I think I have been at this position at least six times … each time I came I feel emotion, sometimes I cried because it is because of us why this soldier died, and it brings out feelings,” he said.
As westbound traffic on the 401 started to lighten, whispers began to fade and silence fell upon the bridge. The motorcade was in sight. Bagpiper Gerry Ward picked up his instrument and started to play. The first OPP car passed, then the next and soon the procession was out of sight.
Videography by Jeffrey Sze, Toronto Observer
Many of the people on the bridge waited more than three hours for that short moment. Katherine Gordon was one of them. “My grandfather died in the First World War so I think Canadians might not understand that level of loss so that’s why I think it’s important that we support when one of our soldiers fall,” she said.
“I feel that we have to lose so many members of the armed forces continually when we thought the conflict was over, and it keeps dragging on. This should not have happened,” Ward said after putting his bagpipes away.