Private Blake Williamson's coffin lay bathed in blazing autumn sunlight Saturday, piled with red and white roses placed by grieving family and friends. Williamson was 23 when he and Sergeant Darcy Tedford were killed on a road west of Kandahar, Afghanistan, that Canadians are helping to build and protect. Anti-government insurgents ambushed the Canadian unit with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. Both men were from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, and based at CFB Petawawa.

Williamson had called nearby Ottawa home in recent years. Dozens of his friends, most in their 20s, huddled against a wintery wind, many wiping away tears, as the military interment ceremony unfolded. At the outset, eight regimental comrades in full red dress slowly carried the flag-draped coffin into the open, grassy area of the National Military Cemetery where he would be buried.

Williamson's mother Heather Anderson, stepfather Gary Benedict, sister Reid Williamson and brother Ryan Williamson followed behind while a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. Lieutenant Bruce McKay of the Royal Canadian Navy presided at the service. "We will grieve, we'll be sad, we'll go through and at times there'll be a flash of memory of Blake," McKay said. "But there is a mystery about this. The mystery is that life does not end at the grave."

Later, the military pallbearers methodically folded the Canadian flag draped over the coffin and carefully handed it from soldier to soldier until it was finally placed on his mother's lap. Anderson smiled and patted the hand of the soldier who gave her the flag as he knelt before her.

Williamson's father, Neil, wrote a letter that appeared Saturday in newspapers in Ottawa and London commending the military for the respect they show families in the aftermath of a soldier's death. "It is difficult to lose a 23-year-old son but the respect, precision, patience, understanding and complete focus on the families suffering this loss is overwhelming," Neil Williamson wrote.

Williamson's simple grey headstone joins a growing number at the National Military Cemetery that mark the final resting places of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.