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Direct from Ottawa – May 28

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Sunday, May 28, 2000

The Unknown Soldier Is Home

Some say that the definition of a nation is a group of people who have done great things in the past and who feel they can do great things in the future. Great things happened today in Canada's national capital. On a cloudy Ottawa day, thousands of people made their way to the Canadian War Memorial. Young, old, veterans, Canadian Forces members, people from all walks of life. The mood is one of gaiety and celebration.

The funeral procession, commanded by Brigadier-General Michel Maisonneuve, arrived at Parliament Hill at approximately 1 p.m. Included are the Chief Mourners, the Military Mourners in Uniform, veterans, Honourary and Veteran Honourary Pallbearers, the Bearer Party, an escort, a guard, a military band, the Funeral Commander and the Chaplain-General.

The Chief Mourner party is led by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, and included Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff. The Chaplain-General, Brigadier-General Murray Fairwell, accompanied by the Bearer Party, enter the Hall of Honour and remove the Unknown Soldier to an awaiting RCMP horse-drawn gun carriage. Thus commenced the final journey of the Unknown Soldier to the firing of artillery guns. One round fired for every minute of the procession to his tomb. 21 in all.

The crowds stand proudly, quietly as the impressive Military Mourners passed. Then the veterans start to march past. There are hundreds, street-width abreast. People start to cheer, to wave and to clap as loudly as they can. Tears well in the eyes of both the dignified veterans and the Canadians who so proudly give to the veterans the symbolic gesture that this was indeed their day. It is overwhelming. Standing with fellow Canadians, in our nation. The moments as the veterans pass are filled with a depth of heartfelt gratitude difficult to describe.

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces gives the Eulogy for Canada's Unknown Soldier.

"We will never know him. But we come today to do him honour as someone who could have done anything and now is no more. We who are left have all kinds of questions that only he could answer. And we, by this act today, are admitting with terrible finality that we will never know those answers."

"We cannot know him. And no honour we do him can give him the future that was destroyed when he was killed. Whatever life he could have led, whatever choices he could have made are all shuttered. They are over. We are honouring that unacceptable thing – a life stopped by doings one's duty. The end of a future, the death of dreams."

The veterans that are with us today know what it is like to see a friend die in their youth. They understand the horrors of war. This is why the Unknown Soldier is a symbol of all sacrifice, of every soldier in all our wars. This is why we must remember. Lest we forget the reason why we live in peace and democracy. It's our duty to remember, even after the last veteran is gone.

The Honourable Adrienne Clarkson ends her eulogy on a poignant note that resonates the pride of our nation's commemoration. "This unknown soldier was not able to live out his allotted span of life to contribute to his country. But in giving himself totally through duty, commitment, love and honour he has become part of us forever. As we are part of him."

Ottawa, Canada

Vimy, France

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