Ceremony to remember Capt. Nichola Goddard at Highway of Heroes in Cobourg

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

COBOURG - It was a fitting tribute as members of the Royal Military College from Kingston paraded over the Highway of Heroes to begin a ceremony to honour Capt. Nichola Goddard.

Goddard was the first Canadian woman killed in combat. She graduated from RMC in 2002 and was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2006.

Leading the procession up the hill to the bridge was RMC Officer Cadet Thomas Levert, carrying the Capt. Nichola Goddard memorial sword.

Following the cadets were Goddard's parents, two sisters, family and dignitaries for the brief ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by a number of Legion representatives and people from Cobourg and surrounding area.

Tim Goddard said his daughter would be absolutely thrilled at the ceremony.

"She'd be absolutely amazed, she'd be laughing. Eleven-and-a-half years later, people still remember."

Goddard said when the family went to the repatriation at CFB Trenton it was 1 a.m. They were there as a family, but didn't know until they left the base that they weren't alone.

"As we came out and saw all the people we didn't know - that was stunning," he said. "Pitch black, but people were there. And to think 11 years later - it's amazing.

Police Chaplain Andrew Truter spoke during the ceremony about the repatriation that took the Goddard family down the Highway of Heroes, from CFB Trenton to Toronto, in 2006.

"The families reaching out of the windows, trying to touch the hand of those on the bridges," he said. "And so we connected. We were Canadians honouring a true Canadian. We dedicate this spot to this brave, wonderful lady. We dedicate it honour of Nichola Goddard. We dedicate this spot and may it truly be hallowed ground. And as people wander by, may the pause and consider for a moment the sacrifice made by the sons and daughter of Canada."

Capt. Goddard was the 16th soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Bronwen Evans, CEO of The True Patriot Love Foundation, said there are currently 26 bridges with plaques and 12 have been named in honour of fallen soldiers.

"The purpose of our plaque program is to commemorate those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," she said. "They are all on footbridges so it's an opportunity to go by and pause and think about the sacrifices of that are made by our service men and women."

The bridge on Ontario Street in Cobourg was sponsored by Canso Investment Counsel Ltd., which decided that instead of having their name on the plaque that it would be a fitting tribute to have Captain Goddard's name.

Sponsorship for the bridge varies, but money goes towards different programs across Canada including mental health for members of the military, physical well being including adaptive ski programs, home and vehicles modifications along with investigating a considerable amount in research.