Vanderhoof-bred Colleen Fitzpatrick will be laying a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Nov. 11, representing all Canadian mothers who have lost a child on military duty.
Announced on Nov. 1 as the National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother for 2016-2017 by The Royal Canadian Legion’s dominion president David Flannigan, Fitzpatrick lost her middle son Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol near Kandahar City in Afghanistan on March 6, 2010.
“Initially, I was quite surprised and I’m excited, but it’s a huge honour to have your name selected as a Silver Cross Mother, and an even bigger honour to stand to represent families who have lost loved ones,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a bit intimidating actually, when you think about all the hundreds of family members that are out there that have experienced similar pain, to say that you’re representing them it’s bit humbling to say the least.”
“It will be an emotional event, and I’ll be thinking of families that have lost their loved ones. Not only the mothers, but the dads, and all the siblings, ‘cause everybody hurts the same way.” Fitzpatrick’s husband Jim will also be at the ceremony.
When Darren was wounded, he received significant blood transfusions that gave him two weeks with his family before he succumbed to his wounds. His mother Fitzpatrick became an advocate for blood donations, winning a national award as she worked with Canadian Blood Services to develop a promotional video and campaign called “Remember the Power of Giving.”
“Blood donation directly impacted us,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s an opportunity to pay it forward and and understand the significance of blood donations and what it means to people’s families.”
Known as Fitzy by his friends and family, Darren was part of the 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Born in June 1988, joining the Canadian Armed Forces in 2006, and deployed to Afghanistan in October 2009, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal during his tour there to work with the operational mentor and liaison team.
He was 21 when he became the 141st fallen soldier from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Since then, his family established memorial bursaries in their son’s name awarded annually to students seeking careers with the Canadian Armed Forces.
The City of Prince George dedicated a city park to Darren named it the Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick Bravery Park — one of only two bravery parks in Canada.
“Remembrance day is every day for us; we don’t forget that we lost him,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s always in our thoughts and prayers, and I’m sure it’s like that for every family member as well.
“When I look at my other two sons, Mike and Sean, it always brings back memories of Darren because they are all very similar. They have the same mannerisms; they are really close brothers.”
Fitzpatrick now lives in Prince George with her sons, grandchildren, and her husband, and many of Darren’s extended family, including cousins, a grandmother, and an aunt and uncle resides in Vanderhoof.