Canadians line route as convoy brings fallen troops home
An old woman sits in a lawn chair clutching her cane, slowly shaking her head as the first of six bodies is unloaded from the military plane.
Feet away, a girl of no more than eight sits quietly on the ground, picking fistfuls of grass from the dirt. She seems unsure why she’s there, but knows it’s important to sit quietly. The faint sound of bagpipes rolls across the tarmac at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, and a tear rolls down the cheek of a woman leaning on her umbrella.
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One by one, as they watch, the caskets of six fallen Canadian soldiers — Capt. Jefferson Francis, 37, Capt. Matthew Dawe, 27, Master Cpl. Colin Bason, 28, Cpl. Jordan Anderson, 25, Cpl. Cole Bartsch, 23, and Pte. Lane Watkins, 20 — killed in a roadside blast in Afghanistan last week are escorted from the plane that brought them home.
Local families, firefighters, veterans, police officers and other community members have turned up by the hundreds, clustering along the barbed wire fence to pay their respects.
While controversy surrounding the war in Afghanistan continues to fester, military officials say they’ve noticed a mounting swell of support for Canada’s troops.
“It’s really been in the last few months we’ve noticed a huge amount of support. People in communities like Cobourg, Port Hope, Oshawa, they line the overpasses along the 401, literally following the route,” says military spokesperson Capt. Ian Stock, referring to the thousands of ordinary Canadians, the police, firefighters, paramedics and others who are turning out to salute the fallen troopers as a convoy of hearses takes them on from Trenton to Toronto.
At 40 km/h, the convey rolls past the people at the base, turns right onto RCAF Road and on to Highway 401. People stop at intersections and get out of their cars. They wave Canadian flags, salute, holding their hands over their hearts.
As the procession heads for Toronto, drivers on the 401 see the flashing lights and instinctively pull to the side. Many get out — some to wave, others to stand at attention. Canadians all, welcoming home their heroes.