One hundred riders on 60 motorcycles pulled into Derek Doubleday Arboretum in Langley Township on Saturday following the pathways leading to the Afghanistan Memorial Monument, the Walk to Remember.
As they headed toward their destination along Hwy. 1, they had been greeted by a Township of Langley Fire Department ladder truck with flashing lights, displaying a giant Canadian flag on the 248 Street overpass on the highway, not far from the sign that declares that section of the route to be the “highway of heroes” in recognition of Canadian soldiers who gave their lives.
It was the eighth annual Memorial Ride for the Fallen to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers in Afghanistan, traveling from Vancouver to Langley.
Canadian flags lined the walkway which contains the names of each of the 158 Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan, and a tree been planted in memory of each of them.
Event organizer Barry “Brutus” Drews said attendance was up from the previous year, when an estimated 50 riders took part.
Drews is a member of the 3rd Canadian Army Veterans (CAV) ROME unit, which was responsible for having a portion of Highway 1 in Langley designated the Highway of Heroes in 2011.
The movement spread across the country with the last dedication taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador last fall.
Now, every province has one.
The event honours Silver Cross families “whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country” Drews said.
They are the next of kin of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.
There were five families present for the event including the parents of Pte. Garrett Chidley from Langley, who was killed on duty in 2009 – his mother, Sian LeSueur (who attended with Brad LeSuer), and father Cam Chidley (who attended with Wendy Chidley).
“It’s an honour,” Cam Chidley said.
“It’s a humbling affair.”
Also present were Ann and Gary Bason, Diane Street, and Allan and Nancy Mansell
The Walk to Remember was built in 2012 as a result of the efforts of two Langley students, sister and brother Elizabeth and Michael Pratt.
Through sponsorships and partnerships with the Township of Langley, Arboretum and Botanical Society of Langley, Rotary clubs, Veterans Affairs Canada, and other community groups, 158 trees were planted along the Walk — one for every Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Michael Pratt attended the Saturday event.
“This is why we did it,” Pratt said, watching the wreaths being placed in preparation for the ceremony.
“The point of something like this is so we can remember those who fell every day of the year.”
The site, which was donated by the Township is the largest Afghanistan memorial of its kind in Canada.
The memorial structure was features a single column, representing a tree with its life cut short, wrapped with a metal ribbon engraved with the names of the fallen.
The last post sounded, then the ”Ode of Remembrance” taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem, “For the Fallen” was read out.
“They shall not grow old/as we that are left grow old:/Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
As the going down of the sun/and in the morning/we will remember them…
Those present responded together.
“We will remember them.”