Monday, September 26, 2011

Schoolyard Memorial for Fallen Soldier By

Fallen Hamilton soldier Shawn Allen Eades’ wife and two young daughters missed the connecting flight that would get them to his memorial ceremony last week.

The family lives in Edmonton and had to catch a plane from Winnipeg that would fly them to Hamilton. With just half an hour to get in and out of the airport, the plane left without them. Lisa pleaded with airport authorities, and after hearing her story, the pilot turned the plane around and came back for them. The people already on board clapped as Lisa and her daughters Breanna, 10, and Niya, 7, were seated.

They were joined by family and friends, soldiers, teachers, students and politicians as close to 200 people at Westwood Public School remembered the fallen soldier Friday afternoon.

Eades was killed on Aug. 20, 2008, while on duty in Afghanistan. He was two weeks away from coming home after his third rotation.

“I think that it helps educate the newer generation of children that war is not just in the past,” said Lisa. “It’s not just about WWI and WWII, wars are continuing on in our day and age now and they are not being as recognized as they need to be.”

The ceremony took place in the school gymnasium at Westwood where Shawn was a student from grades 3-6 in the ’80s. Students sat patiently as they waited to stand up and sing Canadian Heroes.

“He was really special to Canada, and if we didn’t have these soldiers we would have had a really bad life,” said Hassan Skaik, 10.

“It’s not really a happy ceremony, it’s a sad ceremony,” said Victoria Dixon, 9. “It’s not really happy to have a father or son or husband die.”

Chris Ecklund, philanthropist and creator of Canadian Heroes memorial website, worked closely with Eades’ mother Bev McCraw on the memorial. He said he’s been to too many repatriation ceremonies and hopefully there won’t be any more.

“We went to Afghanistan to fight for our freedoms, and unfortunately 157 of our soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Ecklund. “The kids are going to go away from this — they are going to know who Shawn Eades was.”

McCraw gave a touching tribute to her son as she told the crowd the pride and joy of Shawn’s life were his daughters. She looked at Breanna and Niya when she told them, “You will always have an angel on your shoulders.”

The ceremony continued on outside into the wet drizzle where the Eades family was escorted out to the tune of bagpipes. The memorial was draped in a Canadian flag while surrounded by red mums and red lanterns. After the stone was unveiled in the Westwood schoolyard, Breanna and Niya lit the lanterns as the rest of the family laid red roses in front of it.

“It was about daddy — I want people to know that people who die in the war should always be remembered,” said Breanna.

“He was a special soldier,” added Niya.

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