The Trans-Canada Highway between Langley and Abbotsford was officially dedicated as the “Highway of Heroes” Thursday morning (June 9) to honour 13 B.C. soldiers who died in Afghanistan.
The roll call of the fallen includes Master Cpl. Colin Bason, a 28-year-old reserve soldier from Aldergrove killed by the explosion of roadside bomb on July 4, 2007 and Pte. Garrett Chidley, a 21-year-old full-time solider from Langley who was killed on Dec. 30, 2010 after the light armored vehicle he was driving struck an improvised explosive device.
The official dedication ceremony was held at Honour House in New Westminster, the home for injured soldiers, fire fighters, paramedics and police as well as their families who require treatment in Metro Vancouver.
The B.C. route from the 152 Street exit in Surrey to the Sumas exit in Abbotsford on the Trans-Canada Highway is the second Highway of Heroes named in Canada.
The first is located in Ontario on Highway 401 from Canadian Forces Base Trenton to the coroners’ office in Toronto, where hundreds of people have lined the overpasses every time a fallen soldier returned home from Afghanistan.
The Ontario route was officially renamed in 2007.
The renaming of the B.C. route was the work of a Chilliwack-based veterans’ group, the 3rd CAV (Canadian Army Veterans) Ubique Unit.
Ubique got things rolling last year with its first ever Memorial Ride for the Fallen.
Vice president Barry Drews described the motorcycle ride as the West Coast Highway of Heroes.
“It was the perfect wording,” Drews says.
Just two weeks after the CAV’s memorial ride, he got a call from the Ministry of Transportation interested in creating a West Coast Highway of Heroes.
But it wasn’t until well-connected Honour House president Allan de Genova, a former Vancouver parks commissioner got involved that the necessary commitments were made.
“It is touching beyond belief,” says Drews.
“This is a way for people to honour our fallen soldiers and it’s also a sign of respect to the families of the fallen. It’s a constant reminder that we as Canadians care and that their losses will never be forgotten, that it wasn’t for nothing.”
An 18-by-8-foot sign will be posted at each exit that says Highway of Heroes.
For Langley residents, the signs will be another reminder of Master Cpl. Bason and Pte. Chidley.
Pte. Garrett Chidley (L), a 21-year-old full-time solider from Langley was killed on Dec. 30, 2010 after the light armored vehicle he was driving struck an improvised explosive device and Master Cpl. Colin Bason (R), a 28-year-old reserve soldier from Aldergrove, was killed by a roadside bomb on July 4, 2007.
Photos courtesy Canadian Armed Forces.
When Basnon volunteered for the Afghanistan tour, the mission had filled its quota of master corporals so he accepted a reduction in rank to corporal in order to go.
He had about a month left in his tour of duty, and was planning to enlist as a full-time soldier on his return to Canada.
He was survived by his partner, Katrina Blain, and their infant daughter Vienna.
At his funeral service Bason’s parents, Ann and Gary of Abbotsford, and his brother, Beric, led the dozens of other family members and friends along the funeral procession route, which began at Fraser Highway and 276 Street.
Bason had previously served with the military in Bosnia. He first joined the reserves in 2000.
Bason was described as a stellar soldier who was passionate about his role, and a jokester who helped lift the morale of the comrades in his unit.
Born in Cambridge, Ont., and raised in Langley, Pte. Chidley first started taking flying lessons at 14 and completed his first solo flight on Dec. 23, 2003, when he was 15 years old.
He joined the military at 18 and was deployed to Afghanistan on his first mission in September, 2009.
Pte. Chidley was a member of the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a Regular Force battalion based at CFB Shilo Man., serving with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Pte. Chidley’s family and friends spent their last days together with the soldier in November, celebrating an early Christmas while he was home on leave.
During an emotional funeral, family and friends remembered the 21-year-old’s love of life, his appetite for adventure, zany sense of humour, his unique gifts and abilities and commitment to physical fitness.
– with files from Chilliwack Progress