Tuesday, January 08, 2008

WO Massouh and Cpl Labbe are Coming Home

Our fallen soldiers, Warrant Officer Hani Massouh, 41, and Corporal Eric Labbe, age 31, both of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, Quebec, are scheduled to return home to Canada tomorrow.

Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.
When: Wednesday January 9, 3:30 p.m.

Present to pay their respects will be Her Excellency, the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and other dignitaries.

Please honour our soldiers along our Highway of Heroes (Hwy 401 West from Trenton to Toronto) - bring a flag, wear red, or just be present - let the families know we are here for them... supporting them during their difficult time.

They are in Canada - The Repatriation in Trenton

Cpl Eric Labbe is saluted in Honour
Family members grieve the loss of W.O. Hani Massouh.

The casket of Canadian Warrant Officer Hani Massouh is carried to a waiting hearse during his repatriation ceremony.
Fierce winds dominated the tarmac at Trenton Airport. Military officials were carefully monitoring the high winds for fear they could rip loose the massive cargo bay door on the side of the military transport that carried the remains of Warrant Officer Hani Massouh and Cpl. Eric Labbe.
However, amid gusts of 50 kilometres an hour, the proceedings went ahead as planned, with grieving family members and dignitaries, including Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, braving the windswept tarmac.
The families of Massouh, 41, and Labbe, 31, each paid their respects in turn to their fallen soldiers, placing single yellow roses on the caskets, embracing and wiping away tears as they moved away from the hearses.
A trumpeter, flanked by an honour guard, played "Amazing Grace."
Labbe's six-year military career included an overseas posting, a 2002 rotation in the former Yugoslavia.
Massouh, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, but had lived in Quebec since 1968, was a career soldier, having served in the Forces for more than 17 years. Massouh, whose five-year old daughter did not attend the ceremony, was just weeks from retiring from the military.
He had previously been deployed to Haiti, Croatia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.
Labbe's family in Rimouski, Que., was quietly trying to avoid the spotlight as they attempted to come to terms with Eric's death. Sunday could not have been a more heart-wrenching day at the home of Normand and Gertrude Labbé. In the morning, Mr. Labbé heard that one of his sisters had died at age 62. Then, in the evening, a phone call from the Canadian Forces informed him that his only son had died in Afghanistan.
"There is a lot of emotion right now," said Gaetan Labbe, Eric's uncle. "We'll get over it, but it's very difficult," "Eric had the desire and interest to pursue his (military) career," Labbe's family said in a statement last night. "Eric was doing what he loved and we are very proud of him. He always had our support in pursuing his career."
An Aunt said that the Labbés were so distraught by the two concurrent deaths in their family that an ambulance had to be called to their home.
"It was pretty rough for Éric's parents," said a cousin, Marie-Claude Labbé. "My uncle, he gets a call in the morning saying that his sister had died, then in the evening he learns that his son has died. It was too much."
The grief was echoed by the family of WO Massouh. "This is hard. It's so hard," said Nader Massouh, one of his four siblings. 41 year old Massouh, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, was a career soldier, having served in the Forces for more than 17 years.
He was a veteran of several overseas missions. Prior to leaving for Afghanistan this summer, Massouh had previously been deployed to Haiti, Croatia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.
Massouh is the father of a six year old girl.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised the work done by Massouh and Labbe won't be forgotten.
"They deserve the gratitude of all Canadians for their commitment and the work they performed on our behalf," Harper said. "Warrant Officer Massouh and Corporal Labbe made an important contribution to the lives of the people of Afghanistan."
For Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, their deaths reinforce the view that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place to operate.
"With the New Year having just begun, this new tragedy reminds us of the perilous conditions our soldiers are facing in Afghanistan," Jean said. "I salute their merit, their hard work and all the sacrifices they made so fearlessly."
Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Quebec Premier Jean Charest also expressed their condolences.
"It is important that we reiterate our support for our troops who are serving in Afghanistan and are working towards a noble cause," Charest said.
Highway of Heroes
Last night, fellow citizens quietly stood on the bridges crossing “The Highway of Heroes”, that stretch of Highway 401 between Toronto and Trenton.
The occasion was the repatriation of the remains of two Canadian soldiers, W/O Hani Massouth and Cpl Eric Labbe, who were killed in Afghanistan this week. On every bridge starting in Ajax and east from there, there was at least one fire truck with its lights flashing and a group of people waving Canadian flags in tribute to the dead heroes on their final journey home.
As the Toronto-bound convoy bearing the hearses of the dead soldiers passed beneath each bridge, those above came to attention, the firefighters and police officers silently saluting, while the civilians showed their support by waving the Maple Leaf.
What was particularly notable was that the further east one went, the more people stood on the bridges until somewhere around Cobourg and Port Hope there was standing room only.

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