When a 92-year-old veteran approached Bob Collins and told him he couldn’t sleep knowing that there was no honour guard at the Cobble Hill cenotaph overnight in honour of the two soldiers killed in Eastern Canada last week, and that the veteran himself was going to stand watch, Collins decided he wasn’t going to let that happen.
So beginning on Saturday, Collins started taking the night watch, standing by the cenotaph for hours, in the dark, cold and rain to honour Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
Other veterans and cadets had been at the cenotaph during the daytime, but, until Collins took up the job, no one was there overnight.
"I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do," he said.
A former member of the Queen’s Own in Winnipeg, Collins is a member of the Malahat Legion, but didn’t recognize the veteran who spoke to him, although the veteran knew him by name.
He did show up, briefly, during one of Collins’s night shifts at the memorial, getting out of his car and walking up to him, saying "thank you," and leaving before Collins could respond.
The staff of the nearby Cobblestone Pub kept an eye on Collins during his vigil, bringing him coffee and food, and the Shawnigan Lake RCMP checked in with him regularly, either stopping by in person or calling his cell phone. Family members, friends, and strangers also dropped by.
Sunday night was the hardest night, when temperatures dropped to freezing levels, but Collins persevered.
On the final night, he was there from 6 p.m. on Monday until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, when a memorial service was held to coincide with Cpl. Cirillo’s funeral in Hamilton.
Anyone who wants to pay their respects to Warrant Officer Vincent and Cpl. Cirillo can sign a memorial book in the lobby of Sands Funeral Home in Duncan (187 Trunk Rd.), until Saturday, Nov. 1.