Thousands of people gathered at churches in Newfoundland and New Brunswick onWednesday to honour two of the six soldiers killed in an Easter Sunday explosion in Afghanistan.
Three more funerals will be held this week in Atlantic Canada and one in Ontario for the soldiers who died after their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
Sgt. Donald Lucas, 31, was hailed as a respected soldier and a valued friend, as about 1,100 mourners filled St. Thomas Anglican Church in downtown St. John's for a private service.
Grieving with Lucas's widow and two young children were family members and fellow soldiers from Lucas's regiment at Canadian Forces Gagetown in New Brunswick.
"He was my friend. That's why I'm here," Paul Noftall, who grew up five houses away from Lucas, said while choking back tears.
"Very hard day. Very sad."
Describing Lucas as "an outstanding soldier and highly regarded by those soldiers he commanded," Brig.-Gen. Rick Parsons said the loss is deeply felt.
"He was a soldier that— probably the best way to compliment him— is that his soldiers that served with him would follow him anywhere," Parsons told reporters.
"And as a military person, you couldn't ask for a higher compliment."
Huge turnout for N.B. soldier's funeral
Later Wednesday, a funeral service was held in Perth-Andover, N.B.,for Cpl. Aaron E. Williams, 23.
It appeared the entire St. John River Valley was in mourning. Yellow ribbons and Canadian flags started along the Trans-Canada Highway in Florenceville, a 40-minute drive from Perth-Andover. The closer to the northwestern community, the bigger the ribbons, the bigger the flags.
The small town seemed deserted outside the afternoon ceremony at the Calvary Tabernacle Church.
More than a thousand people turned out for the double service: one civilian, one military. Two other village churches filled their pews to capacity, showing the service on closed-circuit television. Mourners could be seen arriving on foot andby car, truck and school bus.
The population of Perth-Andover is around 2,000 people. CFB Gagetown communications officer Lieut. Brian Owens said more than 3,000 visitors showed up at the local funeral home Tuesday to pay their respects.
'We should honour our soldiers'
On Thursday, Pte. David Robert Greenslade, 20, will be buried in Saint John, N.B, while Pte. Kevin Kennedy, a resident of St. Lawrence on Newfoundland's south coast, will be buried in St. Vincent's following a funeral service in nearby St. Mary's.
On Friday, a service will be held for Cpl. Brent Poland, 37, in Sarnia, Ont., and for Master Cpl. Christopher Stannix, 24, in Halifax.
Funeral arrangements are being made for two soldiers— Trooper Patrick James Pentland and Master Cpl. Allan Stewart— who were killed last week in a separate explosion.
George Parsons, a St. John's resident who attended Lucas's funeral, said he felt it was important to show his respect.
"I think we should honour our soldiers who are overseas and doing their cause for us," he said.
"I've had a daughter over there for six months and she's back home and everything's OK, but we should honour our soldiers."