March 11, 2005

Row after row of bright red jackets...

It was quite a moving sight to see row after row of bright red jackets joining in memorial services for the four young RCMP officers who lost their lives.

To quote the CBC web site:

"Thousands of police officers, mourners and dignitaries gathered inside an Edmonton pavilion to honour Constables Peter Schiemann, Leo Johnston, Anthony Gordon and Brock Myrol in the largest memorial service in the Mounties' history.

The officers were shot and killed while investigating stolen property and a marijuana grow operation last Thursday near Mayerthorpe, Alta. Their killer, James Roszko, also shot himself."

Memorial honours Mounties
Profiles of four fallen RCMP officers

The number four doesn't seem large, but apparently Canada has not lost that many law enforcement officers in maybe a century. Plus, the RCMP is an international symbol of Canada, so it seems that this story of loss is also resonating outside my country's borders.

I found it gratifying to see police and military from the US showing up to pay their respects. Cops from places like New York and Boston came to Alberta to attend the funeral and show solidarity. I was struck by an older man - I guess he was an officer in the US Marine Corp. - who said that he felt like the young RCMP officers were like his kids - "they're all my kids" or words to that effect. Logically, it doesn't make sense, but emotionally, he's expressing a feeling of shared loss.

As I mentioned here recently, my Grandfather was a Mountie between 1918 and 1948. He served in detachments all across western Canada. At his funeral in 1978, even though he had retired from the service over 30 years prior, two tall RCMPs in bright red blazers and wide Stetson hats, stood at attention at the front door throughout our quiet little family ceremony. There weren't many people there at "Poppy's" funeral in fact, but the memory of the two Mounties standing at the front door made a hell of a strong impression on me when I was 12, and it still affects me today. I can't even explain it.

I guess it's a shame that it takes a funeral to get people to come together, but in it's own right, the coming-together is still a blessing.

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