The Fall edition of the Highway of Heroes clean wrapped up in Newcastle on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
The semi-annual clean was started four years ago by Kingston resident Kerri Tadeu, retired Master Cpl. Collin Fitzgerald and Cpl. Nick Kerr adopted the entire section of the Highway of Heroes from Trenton to Toronto.
The stretch of highway was officially names the Highway of Heroes in 2007, but people were coming to bridges along the highway since 2004 where the first four fallen soldiers were repatriated back to Canada to CFB Trenton then travelled along the highway to the coroner’s office in Toronto.
It was a grassroots movement as people came to bridges to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers and their families.
Tadeu’s friend, Major Michelle Knight-Mendes was one of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan and travelled along the highway.
Since then, Tadeu said she has learned about sacrifice and tries to give back to the soldiers who gave so much for Canada.
Tadeu along with many volunteers have been cleaning the 344 kilometre (172 km each way) stretch of highway since September 7.
Joining them on the final day of the clean were a group of Legion members from the Newmarket, Bala, and Orangeville area.
Crystal Cook is District E Commander for Ontario Command said some members drove 1.5 hours to pick up garbage along the Highway of Heroes.
“We were all filled with immense pride. The job itself is not glamourous by any means, but it’s what that job means to these people. These are the people that put their lives on the line for us and the least we can do is make sure that the ramps are dedicated to them are clean.”
Cook said for the first time cleaning the highway she said it was “unbelievable,” the amount of garbage.
Port Hope Police Deputy Chief Darren Strongman was apart of the clean in Port Hope and said it “horrendous” the disrespect shown to fallen soldiers including the ramps on Toronto Road in Port Hope named after a fallen soldier Craftsman Kyle Sinclair.
“The fact that this was just cleaned (seven days previous), the amount of garbage generated here. The jugs of urine was exceptionally disgusting.”
“Be respectful, do your job, take your garbage with you, dump it appropriately.”
This is the forth year for the Highway of Heroes clean and Tadeu said with COVID-19 there is a “tremendous amount of masks, a tremendous amount of gloves.”
“It’s always awful to pick up human waste, to pick up drug paraphernalia, but there is always a huge amount of garbage from Tim Hortons users.”
Each piece of garbage is picked up by volunteers and Tadeu describes it as backbreaking work.
“But there is such a tremendous amount of human connection in the veteran community with the military members, the veterans, the first responders, the families of the fallen and watching that Highway of Heroes family grow.”
“It’s somewhat of a mindless task to pick up garbage and that’s the task, but it’s actually who you’re spending the time with is why we are out there.”
“We are out there moving our pain into purpose. We’re out there on a sacred stretch of Canadian soil in which 158 Canadian soldiers were repatriated home along with four civilians.”
“We never really touch on how big of an impact our efforts are.”
Tadeu says a small piece of plastic could be along the highway, but the next day it could end up in a waterway effecting the eco-system.
“Overall – it’s pollution.”