Tribute by Sgt. Boye's military families in Kandahar, Afghanistan
REPATRIATION ON WEDNESDAY:
Our fallen soldier, Sergeant Jason Boyes, 32, 2nd Battalion, Princes Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), based out of Shilo, Manitoba, is scheduled to return home to Canada Wednesday. Please honour him and join others in paying tribute to Canada's Brave Hero either at CFB Trenton - 8 Wing or along Our Highway of Heroes (Hwy 401 btwn Trenton and Toronto)
Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.
When: Wednesday, March 19, 2:00 p.m.
Present to pay their respects will be Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Laurie Hawn, and other dignitaries.
Sgt. Boyes was killed at approximately 8:20 p.m. Kandahar time on March 16 by an explosive device while participating in a joint Afghan - Canadian foot patrol in the Zangabad region, in the District of Panjwayi, approximately 35 km south-west of Kandahar City.
He Comes Home - Ramp Ceremony at CFB Trenton, Ontario
Military pallbearers carry the casket of Sgt. Jason Boyes, 32, at a private repatriation ceremony in Trenton, Ont., Wednesday. Boyes is the 81st Canadian solider to die in Afghanistan.
— Photo Coutesy:The Canadian Press
Dozens of mourners and supporters huddled under umbrellas and waved Canadian flags Wednesday as the remains of the 81st soldier to be killed in Afghanistan were returned home to his grieving wife and young daughter. On the tarmac, friends and former classmates of Boyes, Aaron Amey and Kevin Wager, joined members of his family, including his parents, wife, Alison and young child Mackenzie.
A piper played “Amazing Grace” as Boyes’s family stood solemnly on the tarmac for his repatriation ceremony, and more than 60 supporters watched from behind the fence of the military base.
At the last moment, friends (Aaron Amey and Kevin Wagar) were able to gain access to the service, standing before his casket inside the hearse.
"It was pretty intense," said Amey. "It was one of the most vivid experiences, very heartwrenching, that's for sure. It was a lot to take in."
Both he and Wagar struggled to find the words to express their feelings.
"I had talked to Jason about a month ago and he was saying how excited he was to go there," said Wagar. "It's completely emotionally draining having a good friend of yours pass away.
"Surreal would be an understatement," he said. "It was tough, when you actually see the casket. The Boyes family is being so strong. ... My heart goes out to them."
Outside the base's page- and barbed-wire fence, several more of Boyes's friends stood in the rain, staring quietly at the activity between the military airbus and hearse.
Even from several hundred metres away, the soldier's daughter, Mackenzie, could be seen approaching her father's hearse.
"He was a great guy," said Robin Brown, who in high school was a year behind Boyes.
"He was a stand-up guy; he always had your back," said Brown. "If you wanted things done, he went and did them."
Brown said he was driving to work early Monday morning when he heard about the death of his friend, whom he knew as "Boyesy". After that, he said, he had a new perspective on the war.
"It was real before, but when you know someone, it changes everything."
He added Boyes's friends are "rallying" through social networking sites on the Internet and other ways.
Others from Napanee also made the roughly 40-minute drive to the base. Greater Napanee firefighters positioned a truck at the Glen Miller Road exit off Highway 401; Mayor Gord Schermerhorn was to attend the service; and citizens who never knew the soldier also watched from the fence.
"It's not so much that I know him; it's just that I should be here," said Napanee resident David Keeling, who attended with wife Jeannine. One of their four daughters went to school with Boyes and was "quite upset" by his death, Keeling said.
"It is closer to home now," he said of the war.
Jim Dixon of Belleville holds a flag at the repatriation ceremony of Sgt. Jason Boyes at CFB Trenton yesterday. Dixon and his mother attend every repatriation.
Dylan Masters, 12, of Tweed attended with his mother, and said he had attended about 12 prior repatriations.
"They're fighting for me ... so we can have a safe country," he said.
At every opportunity, Belleville resident Lance McGuire has stood on Highway 401 overpasses as a sign of respect for those in the motorcade which follows each repatriation. Bodies of the fallen are taken from Trenton to Toronto for autopsies before being released to families.
McGuire said "it's eerie" to watch the procession from an overpass. "It's quiet and usually the only chatter is, 'Here comes the soldier,' " said McGuire, who's studying corporate and commercial security at Loyalist College.
He said he was impressed to see so many people assembled under rain ponchos and umbrellas along Highway 2.
"It's patriotic to see this many people here on a day like this," said McGuire.
Boyes' friend Wagar said he was touched most by the "phenomenal" public support.
"It was a filthy, miserable day, and all the people that came out - I never expected to see that," he said. "It really hit home to see all those people standing there."
Over 50 people stopped on the Ontario Street bridge in Cobourg to pay their respects to the passing motorcade at approximately 3:30 p.m., on Wednesday, March 19.
Photo Credit: Peg McCarthy
Earlier in the day, as Boyes's friend Amey prepared to leave for the ceremony, he said he felt compelled to be there, regardless of whether or not he would be on the base. Boyes deserved that support, he said.
"He's in a good place, and he'll know we're there."
"We're just very proud," Amey said after the repatriation. "It puts things in perspective. It's a very humbling experience when somebody close to you makes the supreme sacrifice. You really stop and think about how much small things matter when you see something like that."
Wagar noted the Boyes family has said it still supports the war, and that Sgt. Boyes' work overseas will endure.
"He's always going to be a hero in my eyes, and everybody's."
About 60 kilometres from the base is Boyes’s hometown of Napanee, Ont., where news of his death was still spreading on Wednesday — sending shock waves through the community.The Canadian flag was hung at half mast at Napanee’s Royal Canadian Legion, where locals predicted Boyes’s death would be a “very big event” once word got around to everyone in the town of about 15,000.
Like many Canadians, people in the town had grown so accustomed to hearing about military casualties in Afghanistan that it was no longer shocking, said Jim Perry, who went to high school and played sports with Boyes.
But Perry said he expects the news will soon be unescapable and that most town residents will be just as shocked as he was when he heard Boyes’s name on the radio.“I didn’t realize he went over there, so to hear his name over the radio was quite a surprise like — wait, I know that guy,” Perry said.“He was popular in high school. He wasn’t like someone you didn’t know walking down the halls at school, so it’s probably going to be quite a shock for people to know somebody from here died.”
Col. John Vance, commander of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, called Sgt. Boyes a “good Canadian and a fine soldier.”
“Sgt. Jason Boyes died doing something noble in the name of his country — protecting innocent Afghans so they can rebuild their communities,” Col. Vance said in a statement.
Maj. Michael Wright, commander of the Rear Party of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's, said Sgt. Boyes “epitomized the warrior spirit.”
“He was a natural leader who had proven himself time and time again in combat,” Maj. Wright said in a statement.
“His death was a blow to the regiment and the battle group, but just this morning I received a note from Lt-.Col. David Corbould stating that having seen Sgt. Boyes off at the ramp ceremony, they were carrying on with their mission — because Jason would be damn angry if they weren't.”
Sgt. Boyes is survived by his widow Alison and their two-year-old daughter Mackenzie.