Tuesday, May 29, 2007

401 Bridges Lined to Honour Canadian Soldier

Photo credit: Pete Fisher
Emergency services personnel and citizens line a
401 overpass bridge at Cobourg in honour of the
passing procession bearing the body of Canada's
55th casualty in Afghanistan, Corporal Matthew McCully.

Northumberland County honours Afghan combat fatalities
With transport horns honking in the background, Peg Smith could hardly get the words out to explain why she came to the Ontario Street bridge in Cobourg to watch the procession carrying the remains of Corporal Matthew McCully pass by Monday evening. Corporal McCully was killed May 25 at approximately 8 a.m. Kandahar time by an improvised explosive device while conducting a joint Afghan-Canadian foot patrol close to the village of Nalgham, approximately 35 km west of Kandahar City. It’s the first time Ms. Smith has come to the overpass to watch the funereal procession for a fallen Canadian Armed Forces member as it passes from CFB Trenton to Toronto.
"I feel bad," an emotional Ms. Smith said, her 12-year-old daughter Becky standing beside her. Across Northumberland County, between Trenton and Toronto, it has become a tradition for emergency personnel and citizens to gather on bridges spanning Highway 401 to salute fallen forces personnel and their families. Monday night, bridges from Brighton west to Port Hope had people standing vigil. Every Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan is repatriated at CFB Trenton. The body is then directly transported o Toronto for an autopsy. Cobourg resident Peter O’Donnell said he has witnessed approximately 40 of the 55 Canadian forces personnel killed in Afghanistan passing through Northumberland County. Wearing a red shirt with the word "Canada" and a "Support the Troops " hat, he says has a number of reasons why he chooses to come to a bridge spanning Highway 401. "I’m a very strong military supporter and I also have a son who is currently in Afghanistan. I have a daughter in the navy. I feel it’s my duty to be here to honour our fallen. "It’s to let the families know that we are behind their son, their daughter and that we mourn with them." Although he comes each time to the overpass, because their son is serving in Afghanistan, his wife can’t bring herself to come to the bridge, Mr. O'Donnell says. "It’s devastating because I know what my wife and I go through on a daily basis. My wife will not come here tonight, not because she lacks respect, but because she’s a wreck - it’s that simple." Ms. Smith and her daughter were the first ones on the Cobourg bridge Monday. They were joined later by many others wearing red and carrying Canadian flags. Although it’s the first time she has gone to the bridge, if another Canadian soldier falls in the line of duty, she said she and her daughter will be at the bridge to show their support.

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