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Creating a living tribute to Canada’s military personnel

Dignitaries take part in the ceremonial groundbreaking on Nov. 9. (Photo by Dave Flaherty)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

150. 117,000. Two million.

While at first glance those figures may seem just like random numbers, but a deeper look reveals they represent something much larger – an effort to create a ‘living tribute’ to those who have sacrificed to serve in Canada’s armed forces by The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute (HoHLT)

The organization has an ambitious goal to plan 117,000 trees along a stretch of Highway 401 between Toronto and Trenton.

That number was not indiscriminately selected either, says HoHLT communications manager Mike Hurley.

“It’s one tree for every [Canadian] life that has been lost in military service [since Confederation],” Hurley says.

The lofty goals do not end there as, in total, HoHLT hopes to plant two million trees by the end of 2022, one for each Canadian who has served in the Armed Forces.

The organization can cut that number down by 150 thanks to the efforts of GM employees, local high school students and other volunteers who participated in a planting event in Oshawa on Nov. 9.

“GM reached out to us to be involved, that’s what we are doing today,” Hurley says. “It’s a great way of highlighting the rich military history in Oshawa.”

Reuben Jones, assistant manager at the Oshawa Assembly Plant, says GM has always been “a very big supporter of unity, the environment, and our military, so this all goes hand in hand.”

GM has deep military ties, building more than 800,000 vehicles for the Allied Forces during the two World Wars.

Company founder R.S. McLaughlin served as the honourary colonel of the Ontario Regiment and Army Reserves Unit from 1931 to 1967.

“He became the longest continuously serving colonel in the history of the Canadian military,” Jones noted.

Hurley says HoHLT is looking to raise $10 million over the next three years, which was boosted by a $10,000 contribution by GM.

Donations can be made at hohtribute.ca and as of Remembrance Day, the organization is giving away 500 limited edition ‘challenge’ coins to donors of $150 or more.