In southern Ontario, there is a 172 kilometre (107 mile) stretch of our main Highway 401 between Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Toronto. It is along this route that our citizens pay tribute to our fallen soldiers as they return home for the final time.
It began in 2002, when the first of our servicemen who died in Afghanistan was repatriated. In the city of Oshawa, a few dozen citizens and police officers gathered upon an overpass to salute as the hearse passed underneath. They were there to show their respect, gratitude and support.
As Canada endured more losses in Afghanistan, this movement grew. More and more civilians, veterans, police and firefighters gather and wait on the many overpasses along this long stretch of highway to honour our fallen. From children to the elderly, and every age in between, they appear from all walks of life, and wait for hours through all kinds of weather to show their pride, respect, and sorrow for the fallen, and support for their families. In silence, the procession drives by, beneath the many overpasses which are lined by people - hands over hearts, who salute and wave flags in tribute.
This stretch of Canada's busiest Highway 401 has officially since been named The Highway of Heroes.
There are many poignant images in the video below, which I found on YouTube. The song Highway of Heroes was written and performed by the Canadian band The Trews and can be purchased through iTunes. Net proceeds go to the Canadian Hero Fund which provides scholarships to the families of fallen soldiers.
(If you're reading this post via email, you'll have to click on my blog to see the video)
By Remembrance Day 2008, we had lost 97 of our sons and daughters in Afghanistan, and I listed these soldiers names then. By April, 2009, we lost 20 more and their names appear here. In May of 2009, my son, Jeffrey wrote a blog post for me about what it means to him to be a soldier and at the bottom of that post, I designed an image showing the 117 faces of our lost soldiers blended with our Canadian Flag. That post and image can be seen here. By this time last year, we lost an additional 16 men and women in Afghanistan and the numbers totaled 133. Their names are here.
Today, too many more names have been added to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our number of fallen now total 152. The additional 19 names since last November are below.
Lieutenant Andrew Nuttal, 30 • Sergeant George Miok, 28 • Corporal Zachery McCormack, 21 • Private Garrett William Chidley, 21 • Sergeant Kirk Taylor, 28 • Sergeant John Wayne Fraught, 44 • Corporal Joshua Caleb Baker, 24 • Corporal Darren James Fitzpatrick, 21 • Private Tyler William Todd, 26 • Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, 37 • Private Kevin Thomas McKay, 24 • Colonel Geoff Parker, 42 • Trooper Larry Rudd, 26 • Sergeant Martin Goudreault, 35 • Sergeant James MacNeil, 28 • Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, 34 • Private Andrew Miller, 21 • Sapper Brian Collier, 24 • Corporal Brian Pinksen, 21
The photos and stories of all 152 men and women lost since 2002 can be found here.
Please remember your duty and privilege to honour our heroes with two minutes of silence.
To the many who have made the ultimate sacrifice, thank you.
Lest we forget.