‘We are better for his life and we are diminished by his loss’

For the record: The PM’s remarks about Nathan Cirillo

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks at the regimental funeral for Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton:

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re gathered here today to give thanks for the life of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, struck down last week in the service of his country. His country, our country, our Canada.

Ever desiring peace, Canada has been built upon the noblest ideals: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. And for as long as these ideals have been the foundation of our country, it has been our men and women in uniform who have been, in the end, their ultimate guardians.

Sometimes they have given their lives in that service. And last Wednesday, Corporal Cirillo became the latest to do so.

Corporal Cirillo was a member of one of Canada’s great regiments, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s). In more than a century of service with honours earned from the Somme to Afghanistan, this regiment’s record of courage under fire is as distinctive as their kilt and their glengarries.

To quote Captain Sam Chapman, who served with the regiment during the Second World War, “it is a history written in blood.”

Now sadly, Corporal Cirillo has added another page to that great narrative of devotion unto death.

In a bitter and truly heart-wrenching irony, he did so as he guarded Canada’s national place of solemn, sacred remembrance.

Canadians come together at our National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beside it, to honour those who have given their lives for their country.

As Canadians we stand there humbled; humbled and grateful. These monuments remind us that freedom is never free. It has been earned by the soldier and then donated to all of us.

Most of us can never truly understand the significance to a soldier of the simple act of standing reverently on guard at that place. But those chosen for this sought-after assignment, this vigil at the National War Memorial and over the Unknown Soldier’s grave, they understand.

Corporal Cirillo, who felt the calling of a soldier when he was just a 13-year-old cadet, he understood.

He knew what he was protecting and what he was preserving.

He died protecting and preserving it.

And I’m pleased to note that after only a brief interruption, on Friday past, the Honour Guard at that sacred place officially resumed its duties.

For Canadians, the memory of Corporal Nathan Cirillo will now be forever linked to that place.

Just as the crowds that gathered there to honour the returning sentries, mirrored those along the Highway of Heroes later that same day to bear witness to Corporal Cirillo’s final journey home.

He has now joined the ranks of so many brave Canadians who have gone before him, having given all in the service of their country.

Our hearts are broken at his loss, but our spirits are grateful for his memory.

Corporal Cirillo knew what all those men and women who died before him also knew. The only values really worth living for are those worth dying for.

So may God bless Corporal Nathan Cirillo. We are better for his life and we are diminished by his loss.

And I know Canadians everywhere join me in praying for Corporal Cirillo’s family.

His mother Katherine, his father Victor, his sisters Nicole and Natasha, their partners Richard and Jonathan, his nephew Cameron, as they shoulder this terrible burden of grief.

May time ease the searing pain of today. And may his son, young Marcus Daniel Cirillo, someday find comfort in the fact that our entire country looks up to his dad with pride, with gratitude, with deep abiding respect.

As Canadians, we will persevere, taking strength from the legacy of service of Corporal Cirillo and giving thanks all the more for the courage and dedication of all the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

May God bless them all, and may God keep our land glorious and free.”