Our Veterans Channel is viewed by 44 nations worldwide, this is one old soldiers patrol report of a uniquely Canadian history. It can be hard to find anything beautiful in the military experience, but it’s there, I’ve seen it.
War is always ugly. Leaving the peace of family behind to train for war and then to experience it is uglier. But I have seen beauty come out of war, something beautiful that was created by those who paid the highest price and then kept alive by family, comrades and communities who understand the debt we owe heroes. This beauty stretches across the country. It’s the ‘spark’ we each carry within, a spark of empathy that combines with a unique warrior spirit to make us identifiably Canadian. It ties us together fiercely as ‘family’ forever in service, nurtured by a unique national spirit. This spark spreads everywhere we serve, not only nation-wide, but world-wide, and gives every combatant heart and strength. I watched proudly as that same spark was captured and reflected by our nation’s families along the 401 Highway – Canada’s Highway of Heroes – as each casualty left their own heart-wrenching ramp ceremony in far off darkness to arrive at 8 Wings airfield at CFB Trenton. This unique Canadian spirit created a nation-wide Highway of Heroes.
The Trans Canada Highway that became our National Highway of Heroes is 7,821 km long. Developing since before the beginning of Confederation and ever evolving, it’s a symbol of our vastness and ties us together as the world’s longest national road. Therefore, this ‘Patrol Report’ by an old Recce Sergeant must be as detailed as possible, to tell a complicated but incredible truly Canadian story.
Thanks to the CAV veterans riding organization, I was blessed with a front-row seat to witness greatness. During the recent war in Afghanistan, the only way many of us old soldiers could ‘serve’ was by organizing in groups. I saw the need to create one such group, based on reintegrating veterans from a military life to a civilian one. I was eased into retirement thanks to incredible civilian veteran supporters. They may have saved my life. They certainly assisted me every moment.
Our ‘C.A.V’. (Canadian Army Veterans) Organization of veterans supported by civilians united in 2003 and www.thecav.ca is rapidly approaching its 20th anniversary of facing today’s challenges while respecting past sacrifice. This riding family uses ‘units’ of motorcyclists ‘Riding and Having Fun While Helping Others’ as a mission, using ‘Strength and Honour’ as our motto. The ‘Strength’ to get through each day, ‘Honour’ to do so in the best way possible.
CAV has welcomed old soldiers, sailors and air crew of every rank, including Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie [ret] as our ‘Old Guard founder’ and Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Rick Hillier [ret] as our ‘Rider in Chief.’ Iconic Canadian entertainer Mr Wayne Rostad OC has stood tall as our ‘Rider in Chief for Veteran Supporters.’ The riding membership has humbled us daily with far-reaching veteran outreach, to make charitable history in their home towns. Each unit has been named after a local battle honour, keeping alive old sacrifice alongside present day service and support. Our riders keep busy attending and organizing events or running annual CAV bike shows alongside CAV national events.
In my case, I was able to begin my journey thanks to physiotherapist Reine Dawe. She, alongside skilled surgeons, supporting civilians and many others, ensured I’d not only walk again, but could ride for the CAV family from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island each year, non-stop, for a decade. That journey, 19 times of riding the Trans Canada Highway from coast to coast (once for each surgery), included adventures to Yellowknife and Texas, with Washington DC’s ‘Rolling Thunder’ and the Sturgis motorcycle Rally annual pilgrimages for veteran outreach. Sharing time with veterans of every generation as with the FSSF Devils Brigade veteran Sam Magee, in Canada one moment or in Deadwood South Dakota, the late Jerry Croft would welcome us to the Black Hills, he a Vietnam veteran, and pioneering tunnel rat in the 1st Air CAV.
I witnessed victories won daily by hundreds of CAV members in dozens of cities across Canada from diverse missions such as supporting Silver Cross family initiatives. Initiatives such as Darlene Cushman’s initial ‘Water Flavour Crystal’ project that resulted in our troops overseas receiving pallets with tons of refreshing flavour sleeves to help the taste of life essential water. When her beloved son and CAV member Trooper Darryl Caswell of the Royal Canadian Dragoons was killed with Recce Squadron 40 kms north of Kandahar on June 11, 2007, her lifelong mission of remembrance began and continues till this day.
Internationally, our organization supported I.C.R.O.S.S Canada, founded by ‘soldier poet’ the late Billy Willbond, allowing us to provide aid in far-away refugee camps. We also took up the challenge closer to home to provide life-saving outreach with ‘Ride for Dad,’ teaming CAV Units across Canada with the incomparable Garry Janz and Byron Smith in the fight against prostate cancer. Royal Canadian Legion branches became the beginning and ending points of memorable troop support events that finished with check presentations. Our CAV organization proudly took part in assisting the Legion Rider Program, combining our energies till today.
‘Never forgotten’ is the undercurrent of tragedy that has run throughout CAV’s history, as our deployed forces continued to face IEDs and close-quarter combat. Repatriations of our Fallen to Canada became the ‘norm’, something that has only occurred since the HMCS Kootenay disaster of Oct. 23, 1969. It was this ship’s fire, which caused nine deaths, that forever changed the Department of National Defence protocols to repatriate anyone who dies overseas.
In every case, no matter where I was in Canada, I would turn back to Ontario on learning the news of another media ‘lock down’ as the ‘next of kin were notified.’ Riding nonstop due to aircraft timings for repatriation in Trenton, dozens of us would gather as we were escorted into position by the Ontario Provincial Police. Our motorcycles would soon fill the entire east bound lane of Hwy 2. At 8 Wings airfield border we would stand, often with thousands of people outside a chain-link fence as the aircraft taxied to halt. The silence was striking as the engines went silent. Never forgotten images followed as flag draped caskets descended to the official pall bearers. Families gathered close with a release of emotion that humbled those of us ‘fence-side’ or those watching in silence from their own homes across Canada.
The outpouring of grief and support went on for too many years, too many times, for too many caskets that either arrived alone or were surrounded by the caskets of too many other comrades. These times hardened the outside of our hearts, but inside, a spark arose that was joined by everyone who learned of what was happening along a single stretch of a local highway. With every repatriation, we and Canada united with a pledge to never let a family or comrade mourn alone. Many understood immediately that this emotion could never be contained. It needed to be nurtured and grown and maintained forever, just like our Trans-Canada Highway. Tribute needed to be paid, not only in central Canada, but across our country, with hearts united as one regardless of how great the distance of our physical separation. So people everywhere would find their way to the nearest section of the Trans-Canada Highway and literally stand beside the same route our fallen heroes were carried along.
There are 6,293 recognized permanent military memorials across Canada, each one anchoring that community’s sacrifices, separated by time but giving us gathering places where respects can always be paid. Veterans Memorial Highway routes can be found everywhere to connect and to give honour, from the War of 1812 with the ‘General Brock Highway 405’ to the ‘The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment Memorial Highway’ 62/33 in commemoration of all who fell with the ‘plough jockeys,’ including a family relative of mine, Pte H.A.E. Hie. His regimental family used this path for recruiting for over a century. Recognizing a great Reconnaissance Sergeant of Régiment de la Chaudière – Mr. Leo Major DCM and Bar. This Canadian worthy of a Hollywood movie has a section near CFB Valcartier Hwy 371 named after him. He was an unstoppable warrior, winning the Distinguished Conduct Medal in two wars, first for freeing an entire occupied village in Zwolle Holland, then in Korea leading the successful assault of Hill 355 using his scout sniper platoon only and holding out for three days under steady counterattacks and artillery.
What these powerful individual memorials achieve is crucial. During the Afghan missions other regions of the country that had sacrificed their own heroes understood what was happening ‘back in central Canada.’ A highway had become a place to gather, to mourn quietly, then a highway to take us onward. The Trans-Canada Highway became a perfect foundation for this energy. It was the route our heroes where raised along, recruited, trained and deployed along, and returned to after service has ended. It passes right through our nation, unifying us in times of war and peace. A vibrant highway that daily carries millions of freedom-loving travelers from coast to coast. If ‘Highway of Heroes’ recognition could be achieved with permanent markers identified with poppy signage dedicated from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, our entire nation would have easy access to a literal ribbon of freedom recognizing everyone who has served others.
I was born and raised in Cobourg, ON beside the Highway 401 that would one day become known as the Highway of Heroes. It was my honour to witness a national outpouring of grief that began along the 401. It soon reflected the emotional heartfelt support of total strangers as they gathered along the Trenton 8 Wing repatriation area, a spark taken nationally as Silver Cross families supported by caring Canadians began the never-ending healing process with love and respect. This spark, with the name ‘Highway of Heroes,’ soon travelled along the Trans-Canada Highway, to ignite a fire in British Columbia that from there soon spread back across Canada, leaving behind a Ribbon of Poppies that recognize service and sacrifice. I witnessed our nation, led by citizens as they created a powerful tribute to sacrifice by establishing a literal ribbon of freedom, kept alive by those who wear a uniform.
It is my honour here, to detail this national energy, having experienced first-hand the impact of 158 lives lost in aid of those suffering from terror in Afghanistan. Those 158 who returned to families from far away and were carried down the Highway to become the spark that ignited a nation’s memory. Villages, towns and cities soon created heartfelt tributes to each son and daughter locally.
In my humble opinion, anyone looking for the proof of a unifying soul that joins Canadians together, need look no further than our National Highway of Heroes, the Trans-Canada Highway. It is truly reflective of a diverse culture that includes our First Nations peoples and the 33 distinct waves of immigration to Canada that followed them.
It has been a trying time during this past emergency. Canada counts on its Trans-Canada Highway, a transcontinental federal-provincial highway system connecting 10 provinces from Newfoundland’s Atlantic Ocean to British Columbia on the Pacific ocean. At 7,821 km with signage marked from coast to coast by a white maple leaf on a green background, it is also now proudly marked with Remembrance Poppy signs as our National Highway of Heroes.
During the recent Afghanistan conflict, I was one of dozens of well-wishers as 3 PPCLI Battle Group left for Afghanistan from CFB Trenton in 2002. Short months later, I was one of over 15,000 who attended the first repatriation when word came from Tarnac Farm’s ranges north of Kandahar Afghanistan that 3 PPCLI Para Coy’s Sgt Marc Legere, Cpl Ainsworth Dyer, Richard Green and Pte Nathan Smith had been killed by friendly fire. The world changed forever for those of us who’d bid them the jumpers farewell of ‘Fair Winds and Soft Landings’ as the Battle Group deployed.
I had the honour of being in the hangar in CFB Trenton for the return of PPCLI Jump Company comrades from Afghanistan’s first horrors as the combat intensified until mission end. I witnessed 150 repatriations of our casualties, 75 returns of our Fallen to 8 Wing CFB Trenton and 75 times to Toronto’s Coroner’s Office on Grenville Street.
From that first repatriation, as flags were lowered to half-mast across Canada, the 401 MacDonald Cartier Highway saw hearse after hearse carry our Fallen and their families to the Toronto coroner’s office. Each bridge and overpass along the entire route became mourning places as heartfelt citizens lined up to silently hold hands over hearts and wave flags as police, fire fighters and veterans stood tall. Each attendee had a simple wish to support the families and comrades of the Fallen in the worst of times.
It wasn’t long before Ron Flindall of Cobourg ON began organizing bridge tributes that were captured by the intrepid Pete Fisher, who’s gripping photographs accompanied by Toronto reporter Joe Warmington’s stellar storytelling with his newspaper column, attracted the attention of the world and immediately lead to a successful historic petition created by the late Jay Forbes. These initiatives soon resulted in a worldwide recognition of how Canada literally stood beside and mourned with those who’ve given everything, resulting in the province of Ontario soon designating the Hwy 401 corridor from Trenton to Toronto, ’The Highway of Heroes.”
With signs reminding all of military loss, poppies identified a section of a major travel route that had changed. It carried 158 of our Afghan mission’s dead, soon to be followed by every single repatriated hero our country must endure. This highway became a living memorial as citizens lined its path with hearts on hands for those who sacrificed everything they had, or could ever have. A route of Heroes marked with the appropriate poppy signage protected by and proudly shared by the Royal Canadian Legion. This poppy lined path was sanctified by our Fallen. It soon gripped the hearts and minds of every village, town and city along its length.
Timeline, details for each to follow..
August 24, 2007 Ontario,
November 6, 2007 Quebec,
June 9, 2011 British Columbia,
November 9, 2011 Saskatchewan,
June 6, 2012 Manitoba,
August 12, 2012 New Brunswick,
May 22, 2013 Nova Scotia,
July 18, 2013 Alberta,
September 27, 2013 Toronto Coroners extension,
November 8, 2013 North West Territories,
June 30, 2014 Prince Edward Island,
November 9, 2016 Newfoundland.
My connection to our Highway of Heroes is intimate. Not only my own pain in comrades lost, but a deep respect for all those others that paid the ultimate sacrifice ensuring our freedoms, including the three Memorial (Silver) Cross’s reaching my family from WW2.
While serving in Recce Platoon of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, it was my pleasure and honour as Sniper section commander to keep my troops razor sharp when the Regiment was deployed To Cyprus with the UN. During an intensive and typical 24-hour period of ‘running and gunning ‘,we conducted a night jump with full equipment for the demolition of an ‘enemy power plant.’ We followed that tactical exercise with a day ‘off’ while conducting continuation para training with visiting American paratroopers. Unattached to our group was an assortment of Canadian jumpers looking to keep status current for skills and jump pay.
After the previous evening’s exercise followed by a third daylight para descent the next day, my life changed forever in an instant. A jumper for unknown reasons blacked out and struck me on exiting the C 130 Hercules on the opposite of aircraft. This mid-air collision collapsed my parachute, resulting in a 180-ft freefall that caused multiple spine and leg fractures. The morning after impact, I awoke in recovery after spinal surgery with a firm hand on my chest and a gentle voice prompting me to ‘Breathe Sergeant Cane, Breathe.’
This was my first introduction to Physiotherapist Reine Dawe. From that beginning of firm guidance for my first ‘breathing lesson,’ to countless hours in the NDMC rehabilitation ward on the main floor in the years to come, this extraordinary professional, alongside many other caregivers, gave not only this old soldier another chance to move forward, but thousands of others the tools to take up their future lives.
From paratrooper to paralysis patient, followed by multiple surgeries and being bedridden 19 times over a decade, the medical heroes of the National Defence Medical Centre, in particular Reine’s rehabilitation programs, taught me how to walk again, and gave me the strength to face lifelong debilitating pain every day and keep moving forward. They gave me the skills to once again ride motorcycles and continue serving my nation.
The best medical minds of the day where horrified that I, after all their efforts to save me, was willing to endanger myself with a fused spine, leg and ankle by attempting riding once more. Reine Dawe simply smiled and in her gentle voice said, ‘Sgt. Cane, you never have made our job easy, why start now.’ The National Defence Medical Centre staff with Reine at the head of my physiotherapy allowed me to conquer all obstacles and begin an incredible ride in aid of others.
I’ll never forget the Christmas visit when she dropped by my hospital room to introduce me to her two youngest sons and her husband Peter, a veteran of the Royal Canadian Artillery. From those years onward, I followed the family from afar, watching in great pride as each of their lives gave strength to Canada, with four sons serving in uniform – Phillip (now a trauma surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital), James and Matthew graduating Royal Military College to serve in the PPCLI, and eldest son Peter joining the artillery as did his Lt. Col. father, eventually becoming Major General Commanding all Canadian Special Operations Forces.
On July 4,2007, three anti-tank mines stacked together struck an RG-31 Nyala mine resistant armoured vehicle from 3 PPCLI Charlie Company, 20 kms southwest of Kandahar City, Afghanistan. Killed instantly were MCpl Colin Bason of the New Westminster Regiment, MCpl. Cole Bartsch of Whitecourt AB, Pte. Lane Watkins of Clearwater MB, Cpl. Jordan Anderson, Cpt. Jefferson Francis of 1 RCHA, Hamid (their Afghan interpreter) and Cpt. Matthew Jonathan Dawe of PPCLI C Coy, 8 Pl Commander. Matthew was Reine Dawe’s youngest son.
I was riding in British Columbia attending CAV Unit events when word spread of the terrible loss. I turned east and rode nonstop to stand at the fence along the repatriation area of 8 Wing Trenton, surrounded by hundreds of others that evening as six hearses and six families received these fallen heroe’s. The day his family presented his sword to RMC to the ‘Most deserving Combat Arms Officer Cadet’ in the third year, or the moment I witnessed Matthew being carried through the RMC Memorial archway, then to his burial are memories burned deep for everyone.
I then turned once again west, again riding across the country along the Trans-Canada Highway. Barry Drews of Maple Ridge, Vice President of CAV’s Ubique Unit, met me roadside in Chilliwack BC. After I told him what I had just witnessed in Ontario, he asked, ‘How can BC support the families of our Fallen, especially those from here who’ve paid the highest cost?’
I told him of all officers’ pledges, in particular of PPCLI Cpt. Matthew Dawe’s oath to always ‘look after the troops’ in his platoon. Barry’s father had served in uniform, so he understood the healing that could begin when a community could mourn in support of the Fallen’s own family. Crucial support from the moment grief strikes that is ‘more than words, support that can be seen and felt in the lonely decades ahead.’
I was honoured to remind Barry of MCpl. Colin Bason of BC who was a veteran of service in Bosnia from the New Westminster Regiment who was killed that horrible day alongside Cpt. Dawe and his fallen comrades. I asked him to reach out as respectfully as possible to his parents, Anne and Gary Bason, to let them know that the CAV family would always be there, that if ever a ride in his memory, fundraising needs or anything else was needed, we would be standing by.
Barry, the son of a veteran and the perfect example of a ‘Veteran Supporter,’ took it upon himself to not only reach out to the Bason family, but all the Silver Cross families of British Columbia. With Anne and her husband Gary at their sides, assisted by Honour House and Allan De Genova Giardino, we soon saw history made. It was my honour to witness the ceremony on June 9, 2011 as British Columbia’s own Highway of Heroes was unveiled. In the photo attached, we see Anne at that heartwarming moment. Barry soon organized and led ‘Ride for the Fallen.’ Year after year, this event has gathered Silver Cross families of British Columbia in a provincial show of love and respect that has charged nationwide!
Afghanistan mission Operation Apollo, beginning in October 2001 when JTF2 first began operations, was soon followed in January 2002 with the deployment of 3PPCLI and our forces rotated duties till March 2013. Canadian units where in our first heavy combat since the Korean War, or the 1974 Cyprus invasion involving the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Each new sacrifice led to a reawakening of emotion, recognizing our fellow citizens who continue to volunteer and take deadly risks in our name. The heartfelt repatriations of Afghanistan casualties gave supporting Canadians a place to gather, to mourn and show silent respects. What was triggered changed not only the signage along a highway, but our entire country.
These emotional gatherings soon became actions resulting in permanent tributes.
On Aug. 24, 2007, 401 Ontario named its Trenton-to-Toronto corridor ‘Highway of Heroes’ in remembrance of Canada’s Fallen soldiers. This living legacy of a ribbon of freedom continues to show respect to our Fallen. We see ongoing projects as diverse as Cliff and Marilyn Randall’s Toronto Veterans Honour Ride, the Ride in Red by the late heroine Lise Charron, and Heroes Highway Rides by Lou DeVuono and his hard working team that pay deep respect to Silver Cross families while also attracting thousands to ride along the same route as our Fallen.
We also see Highway of Heroes Cleanups thanks to volunteers led by Mcpl. [ret] Colin Fitzgerald MMV. CD and the stalwart Kerri Tadeu. Forests Ontario and Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign tree planting projects represent every Canadian who has sacrificed all since Confederation and beautify the corridor.
On Nov. 6, 2007, Quebec’s ‘Autoroute Souvenir’, Remembrance Highway 20 was dedicated by Premier Jean Charest after a Veteran from Gaspe began a petition in recognition of all veterans. Combat casualties of the Royal 22nd Vandoo’s in September 2007 in Kandahar sanctified this provincial commemoration.
Then the torch was picked up on our west coast by Mr. Barry Drews and British Columbia ’s Silver Cross families. On June 9, 2011, BC celebrated the opening of its own Highway of Heroes, challenging all others to follow suite in continuing the honour. We stood in awe then rode our bikes en masse down the highway,.
BC’s Trans-Canada Hwy 1, has one of the thousands of expressions of loss that are commemorated along the Trans-Canada Highway – ‘Charlie’s Tree.’ WW1 Pilot Instructor Charles Perkins went to war with four comrades who never returned . He planted ivy around the base of a 200-year-old Douglas pine at the foot of his property and nailed signage in memory of his fallen buddies and all those he taught to fly who fell. In 1964, as ‘TCH’ Hwy 1 construction began, Charlie is rumoured to have sat beside the tree with a shotgun and crews soon thereafter negotiated a curve sparing the tree. With the same resolve as Charles Perkins, the Silver Cross families of BC alongside, 3 CAV Unit President Barry Drews, ably assisted by Mrs. Anne Bason and husband Gary (whose son Mcpl. Colin Bason was killed in the IED Blast that took Cpt. Matthew Dawe) began the mission of uniting every single loss, every memorial, along that route now tied together from coast to coast.
Reine Dawe’s son Mathew, who learned from his own family’s service to others, and from his mother how empathy and looking after others is a life mission, gave his life beside Colin Bason. Thanks to Barry Drews’ understanding of the unique bond of living heroes, a continent-wide evolving tribute was born. Lives joined in tragedy were the needed ‘sparks’ to light a fire of remembrance across Canada.
United by terrible loss, yet focused on healing and honour, folks made history by taking up the challenge of securing the permission of each provincial government to open their own Highway of Heroes section and a powerful stand of flags mourning site. Surrey’s 152 St Exit to the Sumas exit in Abbotsford is ‘Dedicated to British Columbians and the family’s they left behind.’ On dedication day, it was my honour to carry Mrs. Maureen Eykelenboom. Her son Andrew, combat medic and friend to every child he encountered on tour, was killed Aug. 11, 2006 by a suicide bomber. Barry Drews and CAV continues to support British Columbia’s Fallen by conducting an annual ‘Ride for the Fallen’ in support of Silver Cross families.
The spark carries onward!
On Nov. 9, 2011 in Saskatchewan, a ceremony named the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 between Moose Jaw and Regina as ‘Saskatchewan’s Highway of Heroes’, a ‘permanent tribute to Canadian Forces personnel who have lost their lives in service to our country’. Generations of warriors from the Prairies are represented along this highway proudly.
On June 8, 2012 in Manitoba, Premier Greg Selinger with CF members and the Royal Canadian Legion, alongside riding veterans, unveiled 180 kms of Hwy 1 between Winnipeg and CFB Shilo near Brandon as the province’s ‘Highway of Heroes’ within sight of many historic military legacies, in particular, the home of 2nd Battalion of the hard-fighting Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
On Aug. 12, 2012 in New Brunswick, it was my honour to witness the opening ceremonies beside Don and Laurie Greenslade, Silver Cross parents of Pte. David Greenslade killed with five others at age 20 – Sgt. Donald Lucas, Cpl. Aaron Williams, Pte. Ken Vincent Kennedy, Cpl. Brent Poland and fellow New Brunswicker Cpl. Christopher Paul Stannix. 2nd Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle HQ Petitioners Formation President Tony Lynch, assisted by Kent Carswell and Vietnam veteran Mr Sean O’Saunessy saw success once engaging incoming CAV National President Earle Eastman with sniper Steve Tibbetts. MPP Brian MacDonald and Premier David Alward officiated as New Brunswick named its own provincial section, named its own provincial section of the Trans-Canada Highway as a Highway of Heroes, to honour the ‘Dedication of Canadian veterans, soldiers, police, firefighters and other emergency personnel.’ In the attached photo, we humbly take the salute during the ceremonial march past. As part of the ceremony, Antigonish, NS band The Trews played a heart-rending rendition of their song Highway of Heroes.
On May 22, 2013 in Nova Scotia, CAV members, Tony Lynch, Mike Burke and the late Roger Mailman, Sgt. at Arms of ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ Unit succeeded in having Highway 111 being designated ‘Highway of Heroes’ by Premier Darrel Dexter. This route from Dartmouth’s MacKay Bridge and Pleasant Street celebrates the courageous work of all Nova Scotia veterans, firefighters, police and paramedics. Nova Scotia has a deep tradition of service in uniform and it never fails to find ways to honour its heroes.
On July 18, 2013 in Alberta, the late Trina Murray, an incredible energy herself, alongside her husband Al and family, supported by CAV Comrades of Coriano Ridge Unit, took on and successfully petitioned the Alberta government to designate Highway of Heroes recognition, even getting a bridge added to this project. We miss Trina every day but are comforted by the thousands of hearts awakened every day thinking of heroes, as they pass her success in steel and poppies.
On Sept. 27, 2013 in Toronto the HoH was extended to meet the change of Coroners offices, I attended 75 repatriations at the Downtown Grenville Street Coroner’s office. [LV1] The federal government requires all casualties first visit the Office of the Chief Coroner, as this facility was eventually moved to the ‘Humber River Hospital Forensics and Coroners complex’, that ‘new route and location was ‘added to’ and designated as the Highway of Heroes, extending the 401 Trans-Canada Hwy to that facility.
On Nov. 8, 2013, a Highway of Heroes was established from the Alberta border to Enterprise, North West Territories, dedicated to recognizing ‘the sacrifices made by northern soldiers, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical and rescue personnel and other first responders who have died in the line of duty.’
On June 30, 2014, Prince Edward Island dedicated its own Highway of Heroes along a 115-km stretch from Confederation Bridge to Woods Islands, after a petition by CAV member Fernando Fernandes. It was my pleasure to witness this solemn ceremony while carrying Mrs. Kathy Bulger in my sidecar. Her son, Cpl. Nick Bulger of 3 PPCLI, was killed in Afghanistan, July 3, 2009. Kathy’s ongoing pledge to support all heroes matches that of Veteran and Cadet youth leader Silver Cross widow Kendra Mellish, commemorating her husband, WO. Frank Mellish, and other Islanders taken while serving our nation.
And on Nov. 9, 2016, Newfoundland became the last eastern province to designate with their ‘Tich’ between Peacekeepers Way and the Veterans Memorial Highway on the Avalon Peninsula as its own Highway of Heroes. Newfoundland’s military sacrifices are immense. In the attached photo, we see 2nd CAV Formation President Tom Skelding, an Afghanistan veteran himself, alongside his membership, proudly holding the ‘Portraits of Honour’ placards of each of Newfoundland’s Fallen from the Afghan mission, created by renowned artist Dave Sopha, during the opening ceremonies.
Here we are on Canada Day 2021, about to travel once more down the Highway of Heroes. To have witnessed first-hand the outpouring of support nation-wide, alongside the creation of Canada’s National Highway of Heroes from beginning to end, has been a most humbling experience of this old soldier’s life. Above all, this recognition is the first of many steps possible in our nation’s ongoing, never-ending mission to recognize and support the families and comrades of those who fell, or were wounded in the service of others.
Very soon, vaccines and local heath protocols will allow us the freedoms we so dearly treasure, travel nationwide being a key proof of our eventual victory over this recent darkness. If history has taught us anything, it’s that hard-won battles must be fought till the last moment of victory. We are almost out of the woods thanks to advances against Covid 19 and its variants. Let us all see each other through these last gasps of a deadly disease,and join each other as we travel once more coast to coast to coast across the Canadian National Highway of Heroes!!
Canada’s Own National Highway of Heroes, is in my mind the route to take to discover the soul of Canada. Its literal ‘ ribbon of freedom’ is a direct reflection of generations of heroes in uniform, each nurtured by a family like that of my hero, Reine Dawe, our 2019 National Memorial (Silver) Cross Mother, her son Cpt. Matthew Dawe and every Silver Cross family, fallen soldier, air crew, sailor or civilian supporter who have always gone above and beyond.
The Afghanistan tragedy reawakened the understanding of war’s true cost. But it is everyone who wears a uniform for others as military, police, fire or EMS and those civilians who’ve always ‘had their backs in support’ who have made the Highway of Heroes a reality, all united as Canadians. From the bottom of my heart, I wish to thank everyone who made a difference in my life, and the lives of every Canadian, thanks to keeping our unique ongoing service spark alive.
What was needed and now exists is a national uniting physical memorial feature, a connection coast to coast to coast that serves as a clearly marked path that anyone can follow to find each tribute to our heroes along its entire length. A route that takes us through each region that has always supported our Serving and Fallen Canadian Heroes. This has been accomplished by the establishment of our ‘Canadian National Highway of Heroes’, and it’s been my honour, and our pleasure, to travel it once again!
Canada’s Motto ‘A Mari Ad Usque Ad Mare’ “D’un oce’an a’ l’autre” – “From Sea to Sea” Canada’s cross country ribbon of Freedom, opening soon !!!