Today is November 20, 2016, the first anniversary of the Highway of Heroes tribute for my son, John Gallagher. He was killed last year fighting as a volunteer against the Islamic State in Rojava, in Syria. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all the people of Southwestern Ontario – and particularly the people of Blenheim – who greeted and honoured him as he returned home to Chatham-Kent.
In the past year, I have heard from many people who stood outside that day. It was a day we will always remember with gratitude – for absolutely everyone who demonstrated their respect for my son, in so many different ways. We will always remember the flags and the signs, and the people who stood with their hands on their hearts or saluted – at the side of the road, on the bridges, and in the fields. There could not have been a greater tribute to John Robert – a man who was following his conscience and engaging in a battle he thought was necessary to win. You showed us that you valued his ideas, his actions, his sacrifice, and those characteristics which we all consider to be Canadian.
Most of all, I am grateful for the conversations which occurred to bring people out that day. It is important to us to know that people continue to think about and discuss John Robert’s actions. The situation in Kurdistan has deteriorated in the past year. The battle for control of Raqqa, in which my son had expected to be involved, is ongoing – and certainly, the world in general is a less safe place. I hope that conversations about this issue will continue. As I wrote last year, John Robert truly believed that when we learn about injustice, we have a responsibility to act.
My family and I will always be thankful and honoured by the overwhelming outpouring of support you showed for John Robert that day. Thank you very, very much.