A Yellowknife woman who lost her son eight years ago laid a wreath today at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on behalf of all mothers whose children have died in military service.
Sheila Anderson is the Royal Canadian Legion's Silver Cross mother for 2015-2016, the first ever from the Northwest Territories.
"I didn't need to think about it," Anderson said about being asked to lay the wreath. "I wouldn't give up the opportunity for anything."
Anderson's son Cpl. Jordan Anderson was killed, along with five other soldiers, by a roadside bomb outside Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 4, 2007, just a few weeks shy of his 26th birthday. He was a member of the Edmonton-based 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry — as were three others of the six soldiers who died in the bomb attack.
Jordan Anderson was born in Iqaluit and grew up in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, and Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
He was at university studying political science and Mandarin when he joined the Canadian Armed Forces, calling his parents after the fact to tell them he had joined.
"We were like, 'What? You don't listen to instructions, why did you join the army?' " Sheila Anderson recalled.
"I was a little disappointed, but you support your children no matter what they do and they will excel."
Anderson said her son was close to finishing his bachelor's degree and was planning to apply to a master's program at the University of Calgary. He was fascinated by military strategy and wanted to be an intelligence officer. He thought he would have to learn French, and was considering programs he could take after finishing his master's.
Anderson remembers her son's fierce intelligence, his curiosity and his penchant for getting into trouble. He was "a non-conformist," she said.
"He always had an opinion, and he always wanted to argue about it. We thought he should have been a lawyer," Anderson laughed.
She last spoke with him three days before he was killed.
'It's not only the dead that we have to remember; it's also the living.' - Sheila Anderson
Jordan Anderson's widow, Amanda Anderson, said her husband was prepared for his possible death in combat, and told her if it happened, he wanted people to "focus on the mission, not on the casualties."
After he died, Amanda Anderson found some of his writings.
"I'm not afraid to die. I know what I'm doing is right and I've made arrangements for those I love. I know it won't be for nothing," he wrote.
'You're not alone'
Sheila Anderson still struggles with her grief, but said she rarely feels alone with it. Even eight years later, people offer her their condolences. It's part of the reason she didn't hesitate to be the Silver Cross mother.
"I'm going to be thinking that, for all the families that have lost loved ones, that you're not alone. That people in Canada care," she said.
"It's an opportunity to represent everyone, and to bring attention to the fact that it's not only the dead that we have to remember; it's also the living."