Pte. Lane Watkins rests her head
on her son Lee Watkins during
Pte. Watkins' funeral in
Clearwater, Man. Photo: Marcel Cretain
The mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan beseeched Canadians on the day of her son's funeral to support the troops in Afghanistan.
"They deserve your respect. In supporting them, you'll make our loss much easier to bear."
Shortly before an honour guard piped the flag-draped coffin of Pte. Lane Watkins to an open-air service in a field near his Manitoba hometown of Clearwater yesterday, his mother Wanda read a family statement:The mother of a fallen Manitoba soldier pleaded yesterday for Canadians to support the country's military mission in Afghanistan so her son's death won't "be for nothing."
"We are very proud of the work he did there and we would like the Canadian people to listen to the soldiers who are actually doing the work. Please support them. They deserve your respect. And in supporting them, you will make our loss much easier to bear," she told reporters with her family at her side.
Watkins said her family was much like many others before her son joined the army two years ago -- they had had little contact with the military.
"But you become a whole lot more attentive when your child is being deployed. We've come to know many of Lane's instructors and military friends and they are the finest young men that you will ever meet," she said.
"Every Canadian should be extremely proud of our soldiers. They're well-trained and we can trust them."
She said her son was appalled by the poverty and plight of the children in Kandahar.
He used to share the goodies he was sent from home with local children, padre Capt. Darren Persaud told hundreds of mourners that were sitting in lawn chairs or huddled under a tent for the fallen soldier's funeral.
Watkins, who wanted to become a paratrooper, was a member of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton.He died July 4 along with five comrades when a powerful roadside bomb exploded as they were returning from a mission near Kandahar.
The body of 20-year-old Pte. Lane Watkins was carried by soldier pallbearers Monday past the ball diamonds where he played throughout his life, while a crowd 10 times the size of the village's population stood in silence.
Walking behind his casket were his grieving parents, Wanda and Charles, his twin brother Leigh and his other brother Andrew.
Also present was Watkins' brother-in-arms, Pte. Dustin Zonnenburg, who accompanied his friend's remains from the base in Kandahar to the graveside just outside town.
The Watkins family had planned to hold a private funeral, but changed their minds after thousands of people gathered in southern Ontario last week to pay tribute to the bodies of six fallen soldiers as they arrived in Canada.
Reading from a statement, Wanda Watkins implored Canadians to support the Afghanistan mission, and not to let her son Lane's sacrifice be in vain.
She said Canadians need to listen to the stories of soldiers doing good work in the country.
"There is optimism and hope there," she said. "But if Canada and NATO abandon the Afghan people, the sacrifices Lane has made will be for nothing.
"Please support them."
The graveside service was private, as was the reception for mourners in the community hall.
But the wind carried faint whispers of the funeral service. Family friend Joyce McLeod eulogized Lane Watkins as "quite an adventurer," recalling the time he got to the top of the tallest tree on his family's property, not having considered how he would get down.
"Lane and his brothers, Leigh and Andrew, were like the legs in a tripod," always together, but each unique, she said.
Family friend Dave Guilford told reporters the entire community 200 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg practically shut down for the day on Monday. All 85 residents came to the funeral, along with hundreds more from nearby towns.
To view or sign the guest book for the family of Pte. Watkins, click here:
Mother of Fallen Soldier Asks for Support
Monday, July 16, 2007 - The mother of a Canadian soldier killed in southern Afghanistan is asking Canadians to "please" support soldiers serving in Kandahar. Wanda Watkins read a short statement to the media before her son's funeral in Clearwater, Manitoba on Monday. Private Lane Watkins and five other Canadian soldiers were killed July 4 in a roadside bomb explosion. Watkins said "we don't want any family to experience the terrible pain of losing their son or daughter, but if Canada and NATO abandon the Afghan people, the sacrifices of Lane, our family and others have made will be for nothing." Watkins added "they deserve your respect. In supporting them, you'll make our loss much easier to bear."