rick madonik/torstar news service


Local residents line an overpass spanning Highway 401 just outside Brighton, Ont., yesterday as the hearses pass below.

Nobody asked them to be here. And yet, on this Victoria Street highway overpass, here they are: Wayne Smith, 57, with his big Canadian flag, Julia Johns-Grela, 7, with her little one, Patty Reynolds, 36, with her I Support Canadian Troops hat.

“I don’t support the war,” said Sue Retallick, 48. “But when it comes to our people — our children, our nephews, our sons — we’re there for them.”

Until the bodies of Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan leave CFB Trenton, bound for autopsies in Toronto, every moment of their return to Canada is scripted by the military. The plane lands. The bagpiper plays. Soldiers salute. One-by-one, pallbearers load the flag-draped casket — six of them this time — into the waiting hearses.

But then, as the hearses drive past Highway 401 bridges like this one, the regimented pomp of the Canadian forces gives way to the improvised patriotism of Canadians, many of whom heard of the convoy from radio reports and friends.

“I think if my nephews were over there and they died for that fight, I think I’d appreciate knowing that there were people who cared enough to thank them,” said Retallick, who stood on the bridge with Reynolds at 5:30 p.m. yesterday — two hours before the convoy carrying the bodies and families of Cpl. Jordan Anderson, Cpl. Cole Bartsch, Master Cpl. Colin Bason, Capt. Matthew Dawe, Capt. Jefferson Francis and Pte. Lane Watkins. “And that’s what this is.”

“We don’t know these people,” said Derrick Thomson, 52, “and we don’t know what their families are going through. But I think it’s important we not only show respect to them, but to their families driving by.”

Latest From ...