Soldier killed at National War Memorial mourned as caring father, animal lover
The Canadian Forces reservist shot and killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial was a proud soldier, an animal lover and fitness fanatic from Hamilton, Ont.
Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo was taking a turn as part of this fall’s Ceremonial Guard watching over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when he was gunned down shortly after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Cirillo proudly posted photographs to social media dressed in his military fatigues, as well as a snap of his Department of National Defence identification card.
He posted a photograph of his unit -- The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s), an infantry reserve unit based in Hamilton – to Instagram, showing them in full gear in an unnamed forested location. He dubbed it a “family photo,” and included the hashtags #brothers.
A profile picture from Instagram shows Cirillo wearing a t-shirt from Goodlife Fitness. Other photos showed him mid-workout, doing knuckle push-ups and handstands.
Other Instagram photos of his dogs had hashtags like #puppy #love.
Hamilton, Ont. Mayor Bob Bratina said that Cirillo was also a father to a young child.
A community memorial Facebook page in Cirillo’s name was established late Wednesday afternoon. By 11 p.m. ET, the page had nearly 70,000 “likes.”
“How very sad and poignant that this young soldier died while standing guard at our national monument near the grave of the unknown soldier,” one commenter, Garth Cramer, posted on the page.
“Rest in Peace trooper, and let your death remind us of the sacrifices of all the men and women in uniform who stand on guard and defend our country.”
Another commenter echoed the sentiments of many Canadians by saying she did not know Cirillo, “but I’m so proud of his service and sacrifice.
Many commenters thanked Cirillo for his service, while a handful told Cirillo to “stand easy, brother.”
Images posted to social media showed police cars blocking street access to Cirillo’s family home in Hamilton.
Mourners placed flowers outside the Hamilton armoury where Cirillo trained with his unit as friends remembered the 24-year-old.
Carissa Perron, who grew up with Cirillo and remained friends with him said she didn’t want to believe the news.
“He was an awesome person,” Perron said. “He always had a smile on his face no matter what situation he was in.”
Perron said she asked Cirillo not to join the Canadian Forces because she didn’t want him to get hurt.
“But he was adamant about doing it and not quitting,” she said.
The Canadian Army had just resumed responsibility for guarding the Tomb on Monday, taking over from the Royal Canadian Navy as part of the National Sentry program. The Army is to be on duty at the monument in the days leading up to Remembrance Day ceremonies on Nov. 11.
The National Sentry Program “reinforces the Canadian commitment to remember and honour Canadians who served in both World Wars, as well as those who have contributed to Canada’s long standing tradition of military excellence through to the present day,” reads a description of the program on the federal government’s website.
“The sentries reinforce public awareness that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is to be treated with dignity, tribute and respect.”
Hamilton, Ont. Mayor Bob Bratina said Wednesday’s events have made this a terrible day for Canada, and Hamilton now has to take its place among many mourners.”
Witnesses at the Memorial told CTV News that that they heard a gunshot after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a second shot before seeing a soldier in full dress uniform fall to the ground.
Video taken at the scene showed emergency services workers surrounding the soldier and performing CPR before loading him onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.
Ottawa Police confirmed early Wednesday afternoon that the soldier had died after being taken to The Ottawa Hospital.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones,” read a police service statement.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told reporters that today “is a sad and tragic day for our city and our country.”
He offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the soldier’s loved ones, and asked residents to keep his sacrifice in their thoughts.
“Today, I urge all of my fellow residents to think of the individual standing on guard this morning at the National War Memorial,” Watson said. “Remember that one person’s life has been taken from us, from family, from friends, from the future that was to be his.”
Ed Hughes, a veteran who laid a wreath outside the Hamilton Armoury after hearing of the soldier’s death, told reporters “it broke my heart” to learn he was a member of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
“Because these are just kids that are looking for the honour in life, how to be a man, and that’s why they join,” Hughes said. “And to end up being shot, so cowardly, while protecting the Unknown Soldier. It’s a shame.”
Both regular and reserve members of the Armed Forces from across the country take a turn serving in the Ceremonial Guard, which performs public duties around Ottawa.
The Ceremonial Guard was established in 1959, and today is made up of more than 400 soldiers.
A picture of the group that took over guard duties at the War Memorial on Monday shows 20 soldiers in dress uniform standing behind the tomb. They represent the following units:
- 2 Royal Canadian Regiment (Gagetown)
- 4th Artillery Regiment (General Support), RCA (Gagetown)
- 3rd Field Artillery Regiment (The Loyal Company), RCA (Saint John, N.B.)
- Governor General’s Horse Guards (Toronto)
- Governor General’s Foot Guards (Ottawa)
- The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) (Hamilton)
- 1st Battalion, The Nova Scotia Highlanders (North) (Truro)
- 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown
- Ceremonial Guard
The soldiers were scheduled to perform sentry duty daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Remembrance Day.
On Sunday, we asked a very handsome guard for a picture with my friend visiting from Cali - RIP Nathan Cirillo pic.twitter.com/q80EZ6nwmo
— Megan Underwood (@megunder) October 22, 2014