Family of Glace Bay soldier asks for "Highway of Heroes" gesture
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Family of Glace Bay soldier asks for "Highway of Heroes" gesture

The family of a Glace Bay soldier killed in Afghanistan is asking Cape Breton residents to give him one final honour.

Sgt. James MacNeil was on his fourth and final tour of the battle-racked country when he was killed Monday by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol near the village of Nakhonay.

His cousin, Nadine Navarole, tells the Cape Breton Post the family is hoping to provide a “Highway of Heroes” welcome when his remains are repatriated.

She says anyone who knew him or just wants to pay their respects is invited to line the highway from the Sydney airport to MacGillivray’s Funeral Home in Glace Bay.

Hundreds of Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British soldiers turned out in the middle of the night for a ramp ceremony in MacNeil’s honour at Kandahar Airfield, standing¬† quietly in the early-morning darkness to honour their comrade-in-arms.

“It’ll be a tremendous loss, and I know it’s going to be hard for us to recover from this, but he will always be remembered by those he was closest to as a guy who loved life, loved his friends and loved Laura, his fiancee,” fellow combat engineer Maj. Jim Smith said Wednesday during an early-morning ramp ceremony at the sprawling military base.

In a statement Tuesday, family members said MacNeil was an outgoing and loving young man who died doing something he believed in.

Less than 24 hours before his death, MacNeil and his girlfriend got engaged long-distance and began making plans for a wedding and a new home.

His flag-draped coffin was carried to a waiting military transport aircraft by eight of his companions.

MacNeil is the 148th Canadian Forces member to die as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

The plane carrying his remains is scheduled to land at CFB Trenton at 2 p.m. Thursday.

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