I drove to Eganville today, to attend a wake for the father of a friend/former co-worker. The World War II veteran's coffin is partially draped in a Canadian flag, and he is dressed in his Legion uniform, with his service medals proudly displayed on his chest, over his heart.
I did not know Mr. McMaster, but I think he would be as proud as I am, with something that I witnessed on the way to Eganville.
Along the last five or six overpasses headed west on Highway 417 were fire trucks, all flying Canadian flags. I also saw several clusters of police cars parked along the shoulder of the eastbound side of the highway. Then I noticed two military buses headed towards Ottawa, and finally, a short convoy of maybe eight vehicles, obviously carrying the body of a Canadian soldier to his burial at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa.
All of that prompted my Canadian pride. While the U.S. is still grappling with whether to announce military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, Canada is characteristically low key and classy in acknowleding those deaths, and honouring the 115 servicemen and one servicewoman who have died in Afghanistan since 2002.
I didn't know what to do. I wanted to pull over and wait for the convoy that I anticipated would be coming, but didn't want to create a hazard. So I simply saluted the convoy as we passed each other, remembering how I was taught to salute as an Air Cadet, about 38 years ago.
On my way home, I saw those two buses again, this time headed in the opposite direction, confirming my suspicion that they are from CFB Petawawa, headed home after the ceremony at the cemetery.
The fire trucks and police vehicles were the Highway 417 version of the tribute paid on Highway 401's Highway of Heroes, as the bodies of those who sacrificed their lives are brought from Trenton to Toronto.
Indeed, today, I'm especially proud to be Canadian.