WATCH: Cpl. Kyle Button was on duty at the National War Memorial when his friend, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down. In an exclusive interview with Mike Armstrong, Button explains how he did all he could to save Cirillo’s life.
But, Button hasn’t hesitated to return to his post.
It’s something he considers an honour and the terrible events that kept much of the nation’s capital on lockdown, and shocked Canadians across the country, won’t change that.
“I wanted to go back… because it’s our job. I didn’t want to feel intimidated,” Button, who did his first sentry shift in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just two days ago, told Global’s Mike Armstrong in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
When the gunman, 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, approached the monument the morning of Oct. 22, Button had just informed the sentries they only had about 15 minutes left at their posts before a change of the guard.
READ MORE: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo laid to rest in Hamilton
At first sight he thought Zehaf-Bibeau might have just been a tourist who was getting too close, someone he would have to shoo away.
“He wasn’t threatening at all for the first few seconds,” Button said. “Even when he brought the gun up, it didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing.”
He said next few moments seemed much longer than they actually were.
WATCH: Cpl. Kyle Button tells Mike Armstrong how the events of Oct. 22 unfolded and how he tried to save Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s life.
“I knew Nathan was hit right away,” Button said. “He fired two quick shots. I knew they both hit Nathan because he was so close.”
Button ran towards the his stricken comrade, but he said he had to duck and cover before the gunman fired two more shots.
“I remember thinking because of all these stupid ISIS threats… this guy is going to chase us down,” he recalled.
In a matter of moments, Zehaf-Bibeau took off. He eventually made his way to the Centre Block of the House of Parliament, where he was shot dead.
With the gunman on the run, Button took control of the situation at the monument and began trying to save Cirillo’s life.
In heart-wrenching images seen around the world, Button can be seen holding Cirillo’s wounds as bystanders who rushed to the scene to save the young reservist’s life. He held on until the paramedics arrived at the scene.
Through all that, he didn’t let down his guard. He knew the threat wasn’t over.
“I went into Afghanistan mode,” he said, referring to his two tours in the country during Canada’s 12-year mission.
“I remember seeing people with cameras and thinking are these guys spotters [or] are these guys filming because of what happened?”
Button said he was definitely “on edge” returning to his post, looking at everyone who approached the memorial for possible threats.
His time serving at the National War Memorial will come to an end after Remembrance Day. He’ll go back to infantry work at CFB Gagetown. But he “wouldn’t hesitate” to come back to be a ceremonial guard or sentry again. He hopes he’ll be asked.
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As should be expected, it’s been a very emotional time for Button, not just because of how traumatic a day it was but also because of the outpouring of support since that day.
“Just being here to see the amount of people bring up flowers, bring up hockey sticks, bring up jerseys. It’s been incredible,” Button said.
“Nothing can bring [Cirillo] back. I just hope the family sees how much the country cares.”
Cirillo, a 24-year-old father from Hamilton, Ont., was laid to rest on Oct. 28.
Cirillo’s longtime friend and fellow member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Cpl. Branden Stevenson returned to his post as a sentry on Monday, and also released a touching statement about the man he described “like a brother.”
“It was an incredible honour when we were both chosen to come to the National War Memorial to stand-to as sentries,” Stevenson wrote in a Facebook post. “We were very proud to be here together watching over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honouring all those who have fallen.”
With files from Mike Armstrong
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