The soldier felled at the National War Memorial was "fearless" and would've held his post even in the face of an imminent threat, his family said in their first public statement since the shooting that rocked the nation's capital.
"Nathan loved the army. He had a strong unwavering devotion to duty; he understood what it meant to sustain freedom," Corporal Nathan Cirillo's family said in the statement, released Friday evening, just before Cpl. Cirillo's body was returned to his hometown of Hamilton via the Highway of Heroes. "He was fearless. Nathan would have done his duty even if he knew this tragedy was coming. Nathan was Canada's son, he belonged to all of us."
The Cirillos thanked the country, particularly the Canadian Forces and those who came to the soldier's aid, saying the outpouring of support has provided comfort during these difficult days.
"We've always thought we live in the best country in the world, the people just proved it," the family said.
The travels of Cpl. Cirillo's body along the highway came on the same day honour guards resumed their posts at the monument for the first time since the fatal shooting Wednesday.
The motorcade departed Friday afternoon from Ottawa bound for the storied leg of Ontario's Highway 401 named for the soldiers' coffins that have travelled the stretch amid outpourings of public grief and support.
"The transportation route will include a trip down the Highway of Heroes, which will allow Canadians to pay respects to both Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent," a Department of National Defence statement said, referring also to a Canadian Forces victim of a separate attack earlier this week in Quebec.
Cpl. Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, will be given a full regimental funeral Tuesday. Those in Ottawa wanting to pay their respects have already begun doing so, laying flowers, cards and wreaths near the foot of the memorial, where yellow police tape still flutters.
A pair of honour guards returned to their posts there Friday afternoon following a ceremony that drew hundreds, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson. The sound of bagpipes pierced the silence as the guards marched to their posts, standing watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Once in position, they stoically looked on as bystanders clapped and saluted, one yelling "We're proud of you! Thank you!"
The tragedy shook the capital and has cast a spotlight on the realities Canadian cities face as national-security threats become increasingly difficult to predict and prevent. The shooting, which also exposed security vulnerabilities on Parliament Hill and have prompted a review of safety measures there, came the same week that Warrant Officer Vincent was killed and another Canadian Forces member injured after a Quebec man hit the pair with his car.
In light of the attacks, troops across the country have been told not to wear their uniforms in public, except when on duty.
Statement by family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo:
On behalf of our family, we want to say thank you to the entire nation.
On October 22nd we lost a brother, a father, a son, a friend and a national hero.
We are not only mourning as a family, but also a country. When we lost Nathan, we all mourned as one.
There are no words to express the sadness that has fallen upon us all. We take comfort knowing Nathan has done our country proud.
The support of the nation in this devastating time provides a measure of comfort and helps make this almost bearable.
We want to particularly thank the Argylls, the entire Canadian Forces, the police and firefighters, the EMS and those wonderful Canadians that came to aid Nathan in his time of need.
Also we want to convey how deeply moved we are by all Canadian citizens and free nations with the outpouring of sympathy and incredible tributes for Nathan.
Nathan loved the Army. He had a strong unwavering devotion to duty; he understood what it meant to sustain freedom. He was fearless, Nathan would have done his duty even if he knew this tragedy was coming.
Nathan was Canada's son, he belonged to all of us.
We've always thought we live in the best country in the world, the people just proved it.