On October 22nd, 2014 a 24-year-old reservist from Hamilton woke up and got dressed in his ceremonial Highland uniform. He went to work as a ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Corporal Nathan Cirillo. His job was to stand at attention by the monument to visually remind us that living men performed their duties to protect and secure the freedom of others. They paid with their lives so others could benefit. His duty was to stand there and remind us to say thank you to the generations that gave us our freedom.
In the course of his duties that morning, another Canadian came up and shot him dead. Two days later, his hearse and a full entourage travelled down the major highways back to Hamilton. At overpasses and along the shoulders of the highway, people crowded to be in place with flags, salutes and a show of support for a young man who gave his life in duty to his country. This was not just at one stretch of highway or one overpass, but all along the five hour journey. Nathan Cirillo captured the heart and imagination of a nation and will have a hero’s grave.
Do you know the name of Patrice Vincent? He was a 53-year-old soldier who was struck and killed by a car the day before the Ottawa shooting. Another Canadian drove his car deliberately at 2 soldiers leaving Patrice Vincent dead. The other soldier with Patrice is expected to recover from his injuries. The one who will recover may not get the same infamy as his partner who died. In fact, his name has not been released. Neither of the Quebec soldiers will get the national attention to the same degree as Nathan Cirillo. The highways will not be lined with citizens in the same way.
That’s the thing about duty. One person is heroically commemorated while another receives little attention for doing their duty. It begs the question: Do we do our duty because it’s the right thing to do or are we looking for some kind of reward?