Monday, June 02, 2008

Highway of Heroes Honours the Fallen

When Canadian Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan the do so from Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario. When Soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice return, there is a Ramp Ceremony at CFB Trenton. After the families have paid their respects the bodies of the fallen are driven by hearse to Toronto for autopsy. The families follow in a limo.

People spontaneously started lining the overpasses with Canadian flags as an expression of solidarity with the families and to honour the fallen. This practice grew as more Soldiers were killed. The stetch of highway 401 for CFB Trenton to Toronto has been officially renamed the Highway of Heroes by the provincial government.

This past Friday there was a rally on the Highway of Heroes.

'Red Rally' honours fallen soldiers

Cheers greet Highway of Heroes convoy for 83 lost soldiers

The Toronto Sun

Juanita Bartsche misses her son Cole's smile every day.

The 23-year-old soldier was sent to Afghanistan on two tours of duty -- but he didn't make it home the second time around last July.

"He was with six guys and they ran over a bomb and got blown up," said Bartsche, 50, while tears welled up. "He loved being in the military. It was just a calling -- the people and children there made him want to go back. My biggest fear is that people will forget him."

Bartsche came from Whitecourt, Alta., to Downsview Park yesterday to honour her son among the 83 fallen troops who fought in the war-torn country.

A massive "Red Rally" convoy estimated to be 1,000 motorcycles and vehicles long snaked along Hwy. 401 between Trenton and Toronto throughout the afternoon to retrace the route fallen soldiers take when they are repatriated to Canada.

The rally included 83 red vehicles, the donated lead car bearing the names of all those who have died while serving in Afghanistan.

A painted transport truck depicting a Canadian Forces motif and a bus loaded with the relatives of 13 deceased soldiers also joined the convoy, which was greeted by cheering supporters at every overpass along the highway.

Lance Arnold solemnly watched the bagpipe players later in the afternoon as he recalled his time with his 32-year-old brother Glen, who was killed by a suicide bomber in September 2006.

"My family didn't get the opportunity to make the trip with him after he was repatriated," said Arnold, 26. "We went back to Petawawa where the services were held, so this is the first chance to see the banners on the overpasses.

"It breaks my heart and I appreciate it a lot. This is the first chance I've met (all the families) and everyone understands what we're going through," Arnold said.

Organizer Brian Muntz, whose parents were liberated by Canadian troops in the Netherlands during World War II, said it was important to preserve and celebrate Canada's armed forces heritage.

"There's a heritage in Trenton that every Canadian soldier that has been lost in battle has repatriated there. It's coming here to this park which is a heritage of our forces base."
Muntz added that all proceeds from yesterday's event would benefit war veterans by buying beds that vibrate to signal a fire alarm. Many veterans have suffered hearing loss since returning home.

The original founders of the Red Fridays campaign, which urges Canadians to support the military by wearing red on the last day of the work week, raised concerns about the rally earlier in the week, suggesting some military families didn't approve of having their loved ones' names printed on a vehicle.

"This is all about respect for the families, who have suffered the ultimate sacrifice," Friends of Veterans Canada president Randy Young told the Sun. "This isn't political."

1 comment:

Monica said...

I happened across your site and have more of a question/suggestion than a comment.
I was lucky enough once to figure out when a convoy was coming along the HoH but I can't find any place that keeps this info so I know when they are coming. I am also surprised that there is no realtime GPS tracking when they come through online. I would love to be there more often and this kind of thing would certainly help me. As you are in the know here I thought you may have some information on these questions.
I appreciate your site and the straight from the heart feel of it. Thank you for helping us all to remember those sons and daughters who mothers and fathers have lost.