TORONTO — The entire country mourned the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, and a year after his death his memory is being honoured.
“It’s been outstanding support, can’t put it in words really,” says Victor Briffa, Cirillo’s stepfather.
“They’ve lost a soldier, we lost a son.”
The 24-year-old soldier was gunned down during an at attack on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014 as he stood unarmed guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
“In death Nathan united our country like we’ve never seen united before,” says Ron Foxcroft, Honourary Colonel of the Argyll Regiment.
Cirillo has been honoured in a place close to home, a place he loved: a popular off leash area in Hamilton has been renamed “Corporal Nathan Cirillo Leash Free Area”.
Hamilton City Council voted unanimously in favour of the dedication, with his regiment’s approval.
“At every spare moment, Nathan would come here, exercise with his dogs, and it was just a very very special place where he could get lost and be happy.” Foxcroft says.
The fallen soldier would often take his three dogs to the park; Jagger, Mya and Kya — she’s the dog peeking out from under a fence waiting for his return seen in the unforgettable photo taken at the Cirillo home shortly after his death.
His family and those who knew him well feel it’s a fitting tribute.
“I’m a proud Canadian and when anything happens like this it’s like it’s happening to your family,” said Shannon Barry, a dog owner who attended the event.
Cirillo’s mother and two sisters were also at the unveiling of the memorial and had a statement read on their behalf.
“Nathan was very happy when he was with his dogs. Their love of Nathan was constant and unconditional; they were his instant exercise partner and were deliriously happy when they were with Nathan,” the statement read.
“On behalf of the Cirillo family, we are grateful to the City of Hamilton for naming of this dog park in Nathan’s memory. He would be honoured, humbled and happy, this is a very fitting tribute to a gallant young man, thank you Coucillor Ferguson, thank you city of Hamilton.”
It’s a difficult anniversary for Cirillo’s family, who say he was happiest when he was with his son Marcus and his dogs.
He’s being remembered as a proud soldier and dog rescuer.
“There’s been a lot of bright lights,” says Briffa, “but it doesn’t take away the pain of it all.”
This is one of three events planned in his honour– members of his reserve unit, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will have a commemorative ceremony in Hamilton Wednesday evening.
A ceremony to commemorate the assault on Parliament Hill and the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Coporal Nathan Cirillo will be held in Ottawa Thursday. It is open to the public and will include a 21 gun salute fired from the lawns of Parliament Hill at around 11 a.m.
The Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets will conduct a flyby in the missing man formation over the National War memorial at 11:20 a.m.