EDMONTON - Dressed in a flouncy, pink skirt and carefully placing each foot in front of the other, Cpl. Nick Bulger's four-year-old daughter marched behind an armoured vehicle that carried her father's flag-draped casket to a church for his private funeral Monday.
Family and friends gathered at St. Joseph's Basilica to say their final goodbyes to Bulger, 30, who was killed July 3 in Afghanistan when the vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside bomb.
As police blocked off the busy downtown street near the church, the wail of bagpipes could be heard above the din of traffic as a pipe band led the armoured vehicle to the church.
Holding the hands of family members, Bulger's wife, Rebeka, walked behind the military vehicle with her daughters Brooklyn and Elizabeth, who is a toddler.
The casket, which came bearing Bulger's beret, medals, belt, bayonet and a wreath, was shouldered by eight members of a military honour guard which carried it inside the Catholic church for the service.
Shauna Flieder, 37, is a neighbour in the condominium complex in northeast Edmonton where the Bulger family lives.
Concerned residents have festooned the complex with yellow ribbons in a show of support for the grieving military family, she said.
When she heard that Bulger had been killed, her first thoughts were for the two little girls who are playmates of her daughter, Krystina, 2.
"I thought it was horrible, especially for the two little girls. (They're) never going to know their dad. It's sad," said Flieder as she walked to the church.
Rebeka was planning to meet her husband in Ontario in August and was looking forward to see him for the first time in months, she said.
Bulger, who was born in Toronto but raised in Buckhorn, Ont., was on his first overseas mission since joining the military in 2000 and had been deployed to Afghanistan in February.
His wife was nervous about her husband's deployment to the war-torn country, Flieder said.
"She was quite concerned about him being as far away as he was," she said.
But the pair was looking forward to spending some time together in Ontario in August, when Bulger was expected to take leave, Flieder said.
The vehicle that Bulger was in was part of a convoy that also carried Canadian commander Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance.
He was unharmed but five other soldiers were injured in the incident, which happened in the volatile Zhari district.
Bulger was part of Vance's tactical team and a member of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
"It's definitely a tragedy, any time any soldier is lost protecting the nation. It's sad to see someone so close to home lose a life", said Sergio Rodriguez, one of several members of the public who stood outside the church to pay their respects.
His brother is in the U.S. navy and he said the funeral reminded him that such a death could happen to any soldier who is overseas.
"Hopefully the conflict will be over and we are going to move on and we are not going to lose more people," Rodriguez said.
"I would hope that it will open people's eye and realize we need to support our troops whether or not we agree or not with the politics of it, we need to support our military no matter what," he said.
June Simons was just a teenager during the Second World War when she saw young men from her neighbourhood sent to Europe, where many died.
Standing on the street corner to watch the funeral procession, her voice tight with emotion, Simons said while she feels bad for Bulger's family, she doesn't agree with the war in Afghanistan.
She would like to see Canadian troops out of there.
"I feel very emotional. I don't get it, I don't understand it. I don't support what's going on in Afghanistan," she said.
The conflict in the country has been going on for generations and it will only continue once Canadian troops leave, she said.
"It just seems like such a waste of lives, such a waste."
Kathleen Lauram, who is a member of the congregation at St. Joseph's, said everyone in the parish is taking this latest death of a Canadian soldier quite hard.
"I feel sadness but gratitude for what they have done. It's a lifetime gift they are doing for us," she said.
A posting for the corporal on Facebook read: "An amazing son, brother, father, husband, friend and a brave soldier is just the beginning of a description of this fallen hero."
"Nick, you will be missed by many, loved by us all and will forever live on in our hearts. May you rest peacefully."
Since 2002, 124 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died during the Afghan mission.