Two years after Michael and Elizabeth Pratt approached the Township with an idea for an Afghanistan war memorial, the pair’s vision is finally complete.
On Remembrance Day the last of the 158 trees were planted along the Walk to Remember at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum and a new cenotaph was unveiled to pay homage to soldiers and civilians killed on duty in Afghanistan.
The site, which was donated by the Township, has been transformed into the largest Afghanistan memorial of its kind in Canada.
For the Pratt siblings — who founded the Langley Youth for the Fallen group to find sponsors for the trees — the project is small in comparison to the sacrifices Canadian soldiers have made.
“We are very fortunate to live in a country like Canada and a community like Langley where a project like this can actually happen,” Michael, 15, said.
“Elizabeth and I have adopted the Mohandas Gandhi quote, ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’
“The soldiers who have sacrificed their lives have done their part to change the world, and we want to do our part as well.” The dedication ceremony on Sunday was accompanied by the Band of the 15th Regiment and a fly past by the Fraser Blues airplane formation team.
Many were brought to tears when the memorial structure was finally revealed — a single column, representing a tree with its life cut short, wrapped with a metal ribbon engraved with the names of the fallen.
Names include Master Cpl. Colin Bason from Aldergrove, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007, and Pte. Garrett Chidley from Langley, who was killed on duty in 2009.
Private Chidley’s mother, Sian LeSueur, was at the ceremony and expressed her gratitude to the Pratt siblings.
“It is so refreshing to see that there are young people out there that know the meaning of Remembrance Day, and they want others to remember, too,” she said.
“I know they even have the mother of a fallen soldier remembering more this Remembrance Day.”
During the ceremony Langley MP Mark Warawa presented the Walk to Remember with a Canadian flag from the Parliament building.
The flag, which recently flew on the Peace Tower in Ottawa, normally has a 35-year wait list for communities to receive. It is now flying at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum next to the new cenotaph, a very “rare commodity,” Warawa said.
Michael and Elizabeth are “two individuals who exemplify what it means to put words in action,” he said while presenting the flag.
“Their desire to ensure that our Canadian soldiers, not much older than they are, are remembered for the ultimate sacrifice that they paid.”
But nothing could have been done without the support of the Langley community, Elizabeth, 21, said.
“Michael and I feel a little guilty,” she said. “We have received far too much credit for this project.”
Without help from the Township of Langley, the Arboretum and Botanical Society of Langley, The Rotary Club of Langley and other community sponsors, the memorial could never have taken shape.
“You literally have made our vision come to life,” Elizabeth said.