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Patrice Vincent Funeral Held In Quebec

11/01/2014 04:00 EDT | Updated 01/01/2015 05:59 EST
LONGUEUIL, Que. - Friends, relatives and dignitaries paid tribute to slain warrant officer Patrice Vincent on Saturday, with a colleague recalling the Canadian Forces member as someone who always put "his country before himself."

About 1,000 people packed into a church near Montreal to say goodbye to Vincent, who was killed Oct. 20 after being hit by a car driven by an attacker with known jihadist sympathies.

Vincent's sister, Louise, said it was one thing to learn her brother had died, and entirely another to learn he was killed by what she described as a "heinous" act.

"It was even more brutal when I learned what happened in Ottawa," she said in a statement read to reporters after the ceremony, referring to the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

"Patrice's message is to go home tonight, look at those who contribute to your happiness, to your life, and have gratitude for the love they give you, for the help they give you,'' she said.

"And he would tell you also 'Love them, share with them your help in the way you can.' And this was what Patrice was doing, trying to be a better man every day of his life. This made him a hero, but none of us saw this coming."

The military funeral, which featured pipers, a bugler and marching drummers, was attended by soldiers, police officers and firefighters from Quebec and across the country. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were also present.

Vincent's casket was carried out of the St-Antoine-de-Padou Catholic Church in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil draped in a Canadian flag.

After a 21-gun salute, it was loaded into a hearse while three Canadian Forces helicopters hovered overhead, a nod to Vincent's work as a member of a helicopter squadron.

Vincent would have been overwhelmed by the ceremony and the attention, said chief warrant officer Martin Rousseau, a longtime colleague who gave a eulogy.

"I can tell you that he never would have expected this," he said in an interview before the service.

Rousseau described Vincent, 53, as a quiet, determined person who was always looking to help others.

"He left way too soon. He's never going to be forgotten, ever," Rousseau said. "He served his country before himself, always."

At the request of Vincent's family, the service was not televised and media were not granted access to the church. The Prime Minister's Office later issued a transcript of Harper's remarks to the congregation.

"All of Canada shares your pain," Harper said of Vincent's family.

"Patrice did not deserve to die, and you do not deserve to be going through this ordeal.

"Someone dear to you has been taken away by the revolting actions of a person motivated by a barbaric ideology, an ideology contrary to the values of justice, freedom and compassion that we share as Canadians."

Vincent was killed in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal, when Martin Couture-Rouleau plowed into him and a fellow soldier, who survived.

According to one of his superiors, Brig.-Gen. Stephane Lafaut, Vincent was only in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on that day to assist a fellow member of the military, who wanted to visit a Veteran’s Affairs service centre.

"He was helping one of his peers," Lafaut said. "He was accompanying another warrant officer on an administrative procedure, so (he) volunteered to help him."

The funeral was held under heavy security, with police blocking off an area spanning several streets. A small crowd of residents gathered to watch the procession.

Hank Gigandet, a 67-year-old Montrealer, said he wanted to honour a fallen soldier.

"I thought it was a good occasion to come here and show our respect," Gigandet said.

Vincent's death came two days before Cirillo was fatally shot. His attacker, Michael Zehaf Bibeau, was then killed in a dramatic shootout in the halls of the Parliament Buildings.

Vincent was working as a member of the military's personnel support staff in the IT department at 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Saint-Hubert, near Montreal.

He joined the Forces in the spring of 1986 as a combat engineer. After completing his initial trade training, he was posted later that year to CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City.

In 1990, he redeployed as a military firefighter and served at a number of Canadian Forces bases, including Comox, B.C; Trenton, Ont; Edmonton; and North Bay, Ont. Vincent also served around the world on several warships.

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