They stand on guard for thee.
A handful of local military veterans are standing tall at the Whistler Cenotaph Saturday, Oct. 25, to honour a pair of Canadian soldiers who were killed in targeted attacks last week.
Former air force pilot Rob Cox organized the vigil, one of dozens held in communities across the country Saturday in remembrance of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
“We’re taking our cenotaph back,” a defiant Cox said. “The cenotaph is important to any veteran. It represents a lot and we’re not going to let anyone take that away from us.”
A group of four or five veterans will share duties today at the cenotaph located behind the Whistler Fire Hall #1 in the village, completing the honour guard Cpl. Cirillo was tasked with on the morning of Oct. 22 at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
The 24-year-old was shot and killed by an assailant who would storm Parliament Hill and was ultimately killed.
Warrant Officer Vincent was killed just two days earlier in Quebec during a deliberate hit-and-run.
Photos of the slain soldiers, as well as a memorial book, were laid out in the fire hall for guests to sign.
“You will always be remembered in our hearts,” one message read.
The vigil continues until 6 p.m.
Last week’s tragic events hit especially close to home for one former Whistler resident, a cousin to Cpl. Cirillo.
Ashante Cirillo lived and worked in the resort for two years before leaving last winter to go travel. Unable to afford the flight home from Spain after hearing of her cousin’s death, Ashante’s close friend and former roommate Chelsea Stewart arranged a crowdsourcing campaign to pay for her trip.
“Ashante’s words to me kind of shocked me a little,” said Stewart, a Whistler resident. “She said, ‘I just want to be home with my family but I can’t afford it.’ That stuck with me … and I woke up in the morning and thought I’d start a fund for her.”
In just 24 hours, the $2,500 funding goal was met, and Ashante will now be able to attend her cousin’s funeral on Tuesday thanks to dozens of donations from Whistler, across Canada, and as far away as Australia and the Netherlands.
The response was overwhelming, Stewart said.
“It’s definitely made me realize there’s so much good in people, even in such tragic circumstances,” she said. “I want to thank the community for all their support. It’s really, really warmed Ashante’s heart. She’s completely ecstatic and so grateful.”
Donations are still being accepted at www.gofundme.com/g7hl10. All proceeds go directly to Ashante and her family.
More on this story in Thursday’s edition of Pique.
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