Paratrooper gives final salute to fallen comrade
‘Have a good one, Airborne’ is buddy’s last command
Apr. 26, 2002. 03:51 PM
HUBBARDS, N.S. – Just before a Canadian army paratrooper sails out the open door of a plane into the rushing wind of freefall, another soldier taps his shoulder from behind in a gesture of good luck for the journey to come.
Yesterday, in a church packed with mourners, Pte. Simon Hughes knocked hard on the casket of his buddy, Pte. Richard Green, and then, in a voice hoarse with emotion, barked a final command: “Have a good one, Airborne!”
More than 500 people came to this picturesque village along Nova Scotia’s South Shore yesterday for the last burial of four Canadian soldiers killed April 17 by “friendly fire” when a U.S. plane dropped a 500-pound bomb on a night-time training exercise near Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan.
They filled 150-year-old St. Luke’s Anglican Church more than an hour before the service began, standing nose-to-nose in a basement hall, and toe-to-toe in a choir closet. Almost 300 people waited outside to pay their respects to the boy who grew up in Mill Cove, just down the road.
There were cousins and aunts and scores of friends from high school. There were dignitaries, and the Canadian army’s top brass. And there were people who never knew him at all.
“I just wanted to pay my respects to a fallen comrade,” said Percy Grant, who drove across the province to attend the funeral.
Inside the church, Padre Jack Barrett remembered Green as “one of Hubbards’ finest citizens and now a hero to many Canadians.”
He said the 22-year-old paratrooper “laid down his life in pursuit of justice, freedom and peace,” but also warned that no amount of pride or honour in his life will take away the pain of his death.
Green, known as “Ricky” to his friends, was remembered yesterday as a man who liked to live life on the edge, a quiet, soft-spoken soldier who was “wicked at pool” and who relentlessly pursued his dream of being a paratrooper.
Hughes remembered how proud Green was the day he qualified for paratrooper school, how hard the test was and how Green never hesitated, never even stopped to catch his breath.
Michael MacDonald was a home-town mentor to Green who helped train the teen for military service. He remembered visiting Green at his base, how the young soldier sailed out of the sky on a parachute’s wings, then sauntered over to his mentor with a grin, stuffing the chute under his arm.
“Just another day at the office,” Green said to MacDonald joyfully.
“Ricky died living life to the fullest,” Barrett told mourners.
“He loved what he was doing.”
Green was only a young teen when he settled on a career in the army. From that moment on, he began preparing to enter the service, running kilometres along the twisting road that follows the shore between Hubbards and his home.
Mourners retraced the route yesterday as they followed his coffin to a small cemetery in Fox Point, where he was laid to rest.
With red-winged blackbirds singing from bare treetops and a bugler sounding Reveille, mourners took turns covering his coffin in flowers, notes and personal mementos.
Green’s 17-year-old fiancee, Miranda Boutilier, left a note and a red rose on his coffin, then fell to her knees in tears.
Green was one of four members of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry who died in Afghanistan. Yesterday, 47 members of the Edmonton-based group helped give their comrade a full military funeral, standing at sharp attention as his coffin entered and left the church, and firing a three-rifle volley beside the grave.
Green was the fourth soldier buried this week. Funeral services were held earlier for Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer in Toronto, Pte. Nathan Smith in Dartmouth, N.S., and Cpl. Marc Leger in Lancaster, Ont.