Soldier's body returned to Canada while colonel mourned
CFB TRENTON, Ont. - Two Ontario military bases were scenes of sadness and remembrance Thursday as the families and friends of two Canadian soldiers gathered to mourn their loved ones.
At a Canadian Forces Base northwest of Ottawa, hundreds packed into a drill hall for the funeral of Col. Geoffrey Parker, the highest-ranking Canadian officer to be killed in Afghanistan.
A few hundred kilometres south, a repatriation ceremony was held for 26-year-old Trooper Larry Rudd, the latest soldier to die on the Afghan mission.
Silence filled the cavernous drill hall at CFB Petawawa as Parker's flag-draped casket was brought in under a full military honour guard. Brig.-Gen. John Collin presented the eulogy as Parker's wife Mary Jane and their two young children, Charlie and Alexandria, sat in the front row.
"Col. Geoff Parker was a prince of a man. Perhaps the finest officer I ever knew, and I truly do mean that," Collin said.
"It's time for you to rest. You have done your duty. I swear to you that we will do ours."
Parker, 42, a native of Oakville, Ont., was killed last week when a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul.
Many spoke during the hour-long funeral, but few more eloquently than the colonel's brother, David Parker.
"Geoff was a wonderful son to his mother and a great brother to me," he said. "Though we all mourn his passing, let us remember Geoff as a loving husband to M.J. and a great dad to Charlie and Alex."
"I want to express my sincerest thanks to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces and to all my fellow Canadians from coast to coast for the tributes that you have bestowed upon my brother," he added.
"May God bless each of you in your duty to protect this land, the true north strong and free."
Another emotional scene unfolded in eastern Ontario at CFB Trenton at the repatriation ceremony for Rudd.
Family and friends placed single red-and-white roses on his casket after it was carried from a military plane and placed in the waiting hearse.
His mother broke down in tears, crying out "We love you Larry," before being led away by a family member.
Many others wiped away tears as the hearse drove off on its journey along the Highway of Heroes to the coroner's office in Toronto.
Rudd, known to his comrades as a "Gentle Giant" died Monday when a roadside bomb exploded about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.
A native of Brantford, Ont., Rudd was the 146th member of the Canadian military to die on the Afghan mission, and the fourth this month.