The Wounded Warriors ride to remember the fallen from the Afghanistan conflict got underway in the rain at the Afghanistan Memorial at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum in Langley Township Saturday morning.
The 35 cyclists took part in a memorial service before departing for downtown Vancouver and an eventual ferry ride to Victoria where the ride was set to end on the steps of the legislature on Sunday following a visit to the B.C. Afghanistan memorial.
A wreath was laid, the last post was played and the Ode of remembrance was read out.
The service honouring the 158 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who lost their lives in Afghanistan was conducted by the National Program Director of Wounded Warriors Canada, Phillip Ralph, the former Regimental Chaplain to the 32 Combat Engineer Regiment.
“I have done notifications for some of those names that are on that memorial, so it’s a very personal thing for me,” Ralph told The Times.
Ralph said Wounded Warriors, a national mental health charity that assists ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, first responders and their families came about because a member of his regiment was injured by a roadside bomber in Afghanistan.
The cyclists were accompanied on their ride through the Lower Mainland by a motorcycle escort provided by members of the Ubique Unit of the 3rd Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Units (3rd CAV), a group of veterans and supporters who ride motorcycles and campaigned successfully to have the stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Langley and Abbotsford dedicated as the “Highway of Heroes” in 2011.
“We’re really happy that Wounded Warriors brought their event here,” said Barry “Brutus” Drews, the 3rd CAV member who spearhead the campaign.
We look forward to helping them in the future and wish them all great success.”
Jacqueline Zweng, the Highway of Heroes ride director said the B.C. event is the first time the Wounded Warriors have held a fundraising ride in B.C. and it is being held simultaneously with the original ride in Ontario, now in its third year with 120 participants expected to take part.
During the first two years of the Ontario ride, participants, donors and sponsors have raised nearly $500,000.
Zweng said there could be more rides in other regions of the country in the future.
“Our goal is to actually connect the country and continue to add (rides),” Zweng said.
Zweng said the length of the route was trimmed because of concerns about the poor air quality as a result of wildfires burning in B.C.
Despite the cool and damp conditions Saturday, the Metro Vancouver regional authority reported levels of fine particulate matter in Metro Vancouver and the Central Fraser Valley were still increasing due to smoke from wildfires within the region and elsewhere.
Township mayor Jack Froese, a former Vancouver Police Department member, rode his bicycle to the memorial to take part in the service.
“I think it’s a great cause,” Froese said.
“This ride not only supports our wounded soldiers but all our first responders as well.”
From 2001 to 2014 more than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the Afghanistan theatre of operations.