The distinctive red-and-white pattern of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental cap, visible atop soldiers young and old, lent a rawness to Remembrance Day ceremonies in Hamilton, Ont.
It was while wearing the same hat that Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 22, an event dominating thoughts and sentiments on a cloudless Nov. 11 in his hometown.
"I dusted off my cap and came out for Nathan," said Janis Ozols, who was a private in the Argylls in the 1990s. "Whether you were a soldier for one day or 20 years, no matter where you serve, when you sign up, it's a blank cheque you're giving your government for anything up to and including your life."
Even for some who served in battles long past, the local soldier's recent death crowded out distant memories of warfare during the two minutes of silence held before at City Hall.
"You had to be shaken by his death and the way it happened," said Frank Arnold, 88, who served in the Second World War and the Korean War. "There's an increased interest among people here this year. We can only hope his death goes towards continued global peace."
The Argylls' regimental chaplain, Rev. Canon Robert Fead, officiated a ceremony that featured a fly-over by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lancaster bomber.
After the ceremony, he said the national outpouring of grief and gratitude for Cpl. Cirillo have helped in the healing of the Argylls and the Cirillo family.
"I was in the car with the family when thousands of people came out for the trip down the Highway of Heroes and I can say it was very uplifting for the family and the unit as well," he said. "The family is as good as can be expected at a time like this. His mother, Kathy, is a rock, a pillar of strength. We all feed off her."
The public support has come in the form of hundreds of requests to honour Cpl. Cirillo in some way.
"We've had all sorts of ideas come our way, from having [Cpl. Cirillo's son] Marcus drop pucks at hockey games to naming dog parks in his honour," said Rev. Fead. "Right now, we're taking time to figure out which ones make sense."
As the hundreds of people in attendance at Hamilton City Hall wandered back to work and home, Rev. Fead was mobbed by schoolchildren wanting to know more about his uniform.
"What's that?" asked one, pointing to one of the uniform's Scottish accessories.
"That's a sporran, and this is a badger," he said, holding up a piece of fur at his waist. "He is our mascot because he represents toughness."
"What do you do?"
"I take care of the soldiers," said the chaplain. "And sometimes I have to deliver bad news to families that a soldier isn't coming home."
"Do you like it?"
"I love my job. Taking care of soldiers and honouring our fallen is one of the most sacred things we can do."