McCaughey, 31, of Candiac, Que., died May 18 when the CT-114 Tutor jet he was piloting crashed during an airshow rehearsal at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont.
Before the military funeral began, No. 4 Hangar was eerily quiet despite more than 800 people sitting on chairs and bleachers and standing.
Photo credit: Don Healy
Claudia Gaudreault, the fiancee of Snowbird Capt. Shawn McCaughey,
lights a candle at his military funeral in Moose Jaw on Friday.
Then, as the flag-draped casket entered the cavernous building shortly after 1 p.m., men and women in uniform made no attempt to muffle their sobs or stem their tears as they heard many touching tributes and poems dedicated to McCaughey.
The casket was placed between the noses of two planes -- one a CT-114 Tutor jet that's flown by the Snowbirds, and the other a CT-156 Harvard II, the plane McCaughey flew as an instructor.
15 Wing commander Col. Richard Foster told those gathered, "There's no greater sacrifice than giving one's own life in the service of one's country."
The military funeral, which lasted almost two hours, included five eulogies, a rifle volley and a flyover by four CF-18 jets from Cold Lake who performed the Missing Man formation.
The McCaughey family requested the CF-18 jets to honour their son's aspirations to be a CF-18 pilot.
"Here we are, a military family who have come together to stand witness to this young man's life," Foster said. "... Shawn will forever be a part of us as he so firmly believed in the ideals that he represented as a Snowbird."
Foster said that Snowbirds feel honoured and privileged to represent all serving soldiers, sailors and airmen who are risking their lives throughout the world. "Shawn believed in this," Foster said. "He lived this. A great Canadian ... A mentor to us all."
In a poem that Jennifer McCaughey wrote in honour of her brother, she spoke of his love for flying and for belonging to the Snowbird team.
"On behalf of the McCaughey family, Long Live the Snowbirds," she said.
As much as McCaughey adored flying, the love of his life was his fiancee Claudia Gaudreault, whom he was to marry in Montreal next month.
Before leaving for the Montana air show, McCaughey wrote Gaudreault a birthday card and hid it in her bed. She found it the night he died. It was read to the mourners by Julie Selby, the widow of Miles Selby, a Snowbird pilot who died while flying in 2004.
"You are my heart's true love, the one I was meant to meet across time, across space, whatever obstacles life puts in our way," the card read.
"You are the only one with whom I could find such a wonderful deep and exciting love and I'm so glad to be sharing life's beautiful adventures with you." continued ...