On Campus

Children of Canadian soldiers killed on duty granted first of new scholarships

Business leaders say it small way to show support for soldier’s families

Three children from the growing list of Canada’s bereaved military families became the first beneficiaries Saturday of a new scholarship fund set up as a sign of community support for the nation’s Armed Forces. The Canada Company fund, backed by some of the country’s top business leaders, is designed to supplement the benefits provided to children who have lost a military parent during active service.

“I find it a great day because my father’s legacy has been recognized from his death until now,” said Adam Naismith, 17, of Moose Jaw, Sask. “It’s a way of showing us the way they respect him by giving us this scholarship.”

Like his father, Capt. Kevin Naismith — who was killed in May 2003 when he ejected from his CF-18 during exercises near Cold Lake, Alta. — Naismith said he hoped to become a fighter pilot with Canada’s Armed Forces. His dad believed in “protecting everything that Canada stands for” and made the ultimate sacrifice doing so, the teen said.

More than 71 children have lost a parent on active duty since January 2002, a nasty statistic unspoken at the ceremony at the Royal Canadian Military Institute.

Losing a parent is “just not something that you can put into words,” said Naismith, who plans to study physics in the fall at the University of Saskatchewan. “Some things are just a lot harder to get through.”

“When your father is gone, there’s no replacement,” added his mother, Belinda Naismith.

The post-secondary scholarship, which has collected $1.8 million in its few months of existence, provides $4,000 a year for up to four years.

Also receiving a ceremonial cheque Saturday was Myriam Mercier, 17 of Quebec City, who wants to become a nurse. Mercier’s father, Warrant Officer Mario Mercier, was killed last summer in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

“We have also seen for the first time in many, many years the heartbreak that comes from service of a military nature and what it means really to have the unlimited liability that comes from soldiering,” said Maj.-Gen. Guy Thibault, assistant chief of the land staff “All Canadians have been saddened by this (but) we know that the families have suffered a loss that none of can really truly comprehend.”

Michel Girouard, 21, of Petawawa, Ont., whose father Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard was killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in November 2006, was the third beneficiary of the new fund.

The scholarships are a small way for Canadians to show support for soldiers and their families in light of the tragic losses, said Blake Goldring, chairman of Canada Company and an honorary colonel of the Royal Regiment of Canada.

“It’s been a challenging and difficult time for them,” said Goldring, CEO of AGF Management Ltd. “It’s important, though, that they know Canadians stand behind them.”

– with a report from CP

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