Close to 50 riders took part in the seventh annual Memorial Ride for the Fallen to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers in Afghanistan, traveling from Vancouver to Langley’s Afghanistan Memorial Monument, the Walk to Remember.
Canadian flags lined the walkway of the memorial at Derek Doubleday Arboretum, which contains the names of each of the 158 Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan, and a tree has been planted in memory of each of them.
“It’s a way of showing that we haven’t forgotten the sacrifices of their loved ones while they were serving our country,” organizer Barry “Brutus” Drews said .
“I just thought it was the right thing to do.”
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.
Five Silver Cross families laid wreaths at the memorial.
The Silver Cross or Memorial Cross is awarded to the next of kin of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.
The crosses were sent automatically to mothers and wives who qualified, and could be worn by the recipients anytime, even though they were not themselves veterans. The cross was engraved with the name, rank and service number of the son or husband.
One of the Silver Cross mothers at the Langley event, Sheila Fynes from Victoria, rode to the event as a passenger on a motorcycle to remember her son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge.
“We don’t own a motorbike,” she said.
“I look around at these men and women and they just have such pure hearts and are so full of respect. This means everything for me.”
Langridge, 28, was found dead in his Edmonton barracks in 2008.
Two years later, the Afghanistan war veteran was given the Sacrifice Medal, which is awarded to soldiers who die “as a result of military service or are wounded by hostile action.”
A scathing report by the Military Police Complaints Commission on the investigation into Langridge’s death, concluded his family was disrespected, ignored and given potentially misleading information.
Master of ceremonies Rick Streifel, himself a veteran, reminded those present that 70 of the Canadian deaths in Afghanistan were the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”Canada has the highest lifetime PTSD prevalence rate out of 16 countries worldwide,” Streifel said.
“Those that fell were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters brothers and sisters,” Streifel said.
“And today we have gathered here to show their families, the Memorial Cross recipients of this province, that they, as well as their families, will never be forgotten.”
The other Silver Cross families present were Ann and Garry Bason, Sian and Brad Lisuer, Diane Street and Nancy and Allan Mansell.
The ride started at Trev Deeley in Vancouver before heading up up Hwy 1 en route to the Derek Doubleday Park off Fraser Hwy in Langley for the memorial service
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.
The two formed Langley Youth for the Fallen in 2011 to promote their dream of establishing the memorial grove.
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.