Cpl. Aaron E. Williams (April 8, 2007)

Funeral service was held in Perth-Andover, N.B., for Cpl. Aaron E. Williams, 23.

It appeared the entire St. John River Valley was in mourning. Yellow ribbons and Canadian flags started along the Trans-Canada Highway in Florenceville, a 40-minute drive from Perth-Andover. The closer to the northwestern community, the bigger the ribbons, the bigger the flags.

The small town seemed deserted outside the afternoon ceremony at the Calvary Tabernacle Church.

More than a thousand people turned out for the double service: one civilian, one military. Two other village churches filled their pews to capacity, showing the service on closed-circuit television. Mourners could be seen arriving on foot and by car, truck and school bus.

The population of Perth-Andover is around 2,000 people. CFB Gagetown communications officer Lieut. Brian Owens said more than 3,000 visitors showed up at the local funeral home Tuesday to pay their respects.

Hundreds of mourners attended funeral services for Cpl. Aaron Williams, 23, of Perth-Andover, N.B., a member of the 2nd battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B.

He died killed along with five others on Easter Sunday when the vehicle in which they were travelling struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. It was the worst single-day casualty toll for Canadian soldiers serving there.

It was a cold, blustery day in Perth-Andover, in western New Brunswick, as family and friends said farewell to Williams.

His two-year-old daughter, Kayla, looked bewildered as she was bundled against the cold for her father's burial in a small, snow-covered cemetery in the community on the St. John River.

She clutched a program for her father's funeral, which attracted about 1,100 people mourners.

"The majority of the community is here," said Dr. Larry Kennedy, a physician who knew Williams all his life.

"He will be remembered as a dedicated young man who had a direction in life. He achieved that direction."

Col. Ryan Jestin, base commander at Gagetown, said it's difficult to come to terms with the youth of the slain soldiers.

Several leave behind small children who will never know their dads.

"I believe that these deaths have not been in vain," Jestin said in Perth-Andover, N.B., following the funeral for Williams.

"The families all told me their sons were doing what they wanted to do. We're trying to make the world a better place and you can't ask for a better legacy than that."