The annual memorial held at the Cobble Hill cenotaph each Oct. 22 to honour soldiers who died in non-combat roles will include a vertical wall this year containing the names of all the Canadian soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country while not in battle.
Bob Collins, a former member of the Queen’s Own in Winnipeg and current president of the South Cowichan Community Policing Advisory Society, began the annual vigil on Oct. 22, 2014, after Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a 24 year old reservist from Hamilton, Ontario, was shot in the back and killed earlier that day as he stood ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was also murdered in a hit-and-run by an Islamic extremist in Quebec just 48 hours before the attack on Cirillo.
Today, as the anniversary of the attacks draws near, many honour these fallen soldiers’ memories, and Oct. 22 has been set aside by many to honour all Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives in non-combat service on Canadian soil.
To date, that number stands at 2,470 soldiers.
Last year, Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, introduced Private Member’ Bill C-292 which would annually mark Oct. 22 to commemorate the Canadian Armed Forces’ members who have made the ultimate sacrifice while on Canadian soil during peacetime.
Collins is still very much involved in honouring the memory of Cirillo, Vincent and all Canadian soldiers who died in non-combat service.
Since 2014, Collins and volunteers from the Canadian Armed Forces and cadets start standing at attention at the Cobble Hill cenotaph at 6:28 a.m. on each Oct. 22, the precise time Cirillo was shot, and end the following day at 11 a.m. when the Canadian flag is raised.
“It is heartwarming to recognize these soldiers as the heroes that they truly are,” Collins said.
“I was approached by one of our senior veterans (on Oct. 22, 2014). He was concerned that after the horrific attack in Ottawa we did not have anyone standing on guard at the cenotaph in Cobble Hill to honour the fallen soldiers. He indicated that he was willing to go out and stand guard. The weather was very cold and rainy and I couldn’t bear the thought of him standing alone in the dark and the cold, so I booked off work and took his place at the cenotaph.”
The annual vigil program, which is supported by the Royal Canadian Legion 134 – Malahat District, begins at 10:45 a.m on Oct. 22 in front of the Cobble Hill cenotaph and everyone is welcome to attend, but people are reminded to follow health protocols.
Participants are also invited to go to the Malahat Legion at the conclusion of the service.
“This year, we will be recognizing the 177 members of our military family who have lost their lives to PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and will be holding a candlelight service in their honour,” Collins said.
As to why he is so committed to this cause, Collins said he has met family members and heard their painful stories of what the loss of a loved one means to them.
“I feel that it is a privilege to make certain that these fallen heroes be recognized for their contribution,” he said.
“We Will Remember Them.”