Veterans have formed a group that uses a simple yet touching way to honour fallen comrades and to help others dealing with struggling with the return to civilian life: they’ve started collecting litter and trash along a special stretch of Ontario’s busy Highway 401.
This is no ordinary portion of the multiple-lane freeway. The “Highway of Heroes,” a stretch of Highway 401 between Trenton and Toronto, takes its name as it is the route taken by convoys bearing the remains of Canadian men and women who died in military service to the country.
Kerri Tadeu is not a veteran but her best friend, Michelle Knight Mendez, was one of those Canadians who died in Afghanistan. To honour her friend and the other 158 military personnel who traveled the highway, Tadeu and some veterans launched “Service and Sacrifice.”
They began by pledging to remove litter from the 172 kilometres of the highway. They soon realized they also needed to involve veterans who had returned safely but were injured in mind and spirit.
“It’s actually bringing the veterans community together, which are veterans and those that care about veterans together. They don’t really have to talk. They just know each other’s trauma,” Tadeau says.
The living tribute on the Highway of Heroes
Retired Master Cpl. Tim Carriere has taken part in the cleanup and the support network created by Spirit and Sacrifice. He put the group in contact with his friend Collin Fitzgerald, who had been struggling after returning from Afghanistan.
“Kerri and Collin, for something to do, for a little bit of purpose in life, adopted the Highway of Heroes. I just try and keep in touch with my good friend Colin Fitzgerald, make sure he’s doing good, so when they make it to Cobourg-Port Hope, we go down and help clean up the highway so I can hook up with them,” Carriere says.
Both sides of the highway are cleaned twice a year. On average 300 to 400 bags of trash are collected.
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