Canada lost another brave soldier to terrorism this week. 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was brutally gunned down while he stood guard over the National War Memorial in Ottawa. He was shot by Muslim extremist, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shortly after 10 a.m. before Zehaf-Bibeau trained his violence toward Parliament. He was silenced by Parliament’s head of security, sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a reserve infantry regiment based at the James Street Armoury in Hamilton, Ontario. Their Colonel in Chief is of course, Her Majesty.
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) is one of Canada’s largest Army Reserve Units and one of their ceremonial duties is to guard the National War Memorial. The soldiers are rotated on either an hourly or bi-hourly basis and stand guard in their Black Watch tartan kilt, topped with the Glengarry.
The regiment was formed on 13 September 1903 and was ordained three days later as the 91st Regiment Canadian Highlanders. During the First World War, the Regiment initially served as a training unit, training men to serve in the numbered battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. These men primarily served in Europe and one member of the unit, LT Hugh McKenzie, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of Passchendaele.
During WWII, the regiment was placed on active service and designated The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s). This was in part of an official alliance with the British Regiment, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
The Argyll began their overseas duties in Jamaica from 1941-1943 before embarking for Great Britain in July 1943. On 26 July 1944, the regiment landed in France as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division and continued to fight in Northwestern Europe until the end of the war.
As they did following the end of WWI, the Regiment resumed their traditional peacetime role of ceremonial duties. They also continued to be activated during times of national emergency (as was seen in the 1988 ice storm) or as required by Canada’s regular forces.
Since the conclusion of WWII, they have been deployed with active duty to Cyprus, Germany, Bosnia, and Kosovo. The regiment also served in Afghanistan between 2002 and the present, contributing more than 20% of their authorized strength to the various Task Forces.
Cpl. Cirillo was a devoted father to his 6-year-old son and an animal lover, leaving behind two German Shepherds. Cpl. Cirillo is a fitness enthusiast, working part-time as a personal trainer and as a bouncer in a local club when he was not on duty.
Cpl. Cirillo was always up for a challenge and his aunt revealed to Canada’s Globe and Mail that he was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency.
“He always had a smile on his face; he was always walking around giving people handshakes, introducing people to himself,” said friend Peter DiBussolo. “He would always try to keep a conversation going. He was an outgoing person; he knew how to have fun.”
The Department of National Defence announced on Wednesday the program of soldiers guarding the war memorial is now on hold: “The national sentry program has been suspended until further notice.”