It was 2007 when the Canadian government renamed the freeway stretching from Trenton, Ontario, to the city of Toronto the Highway of Heroes. Also known as Macdonald-Cartier Freeway or Highway 401, it meanders more than 100 miles, most of it along Lake Ontario, the member of the Great Lakes that is fed by the Niagara River and its iconic waterfalls.
The highway’s name was coined unofficially in 2002, after the first of Canada’s soldiers killed in Afghanistan were repatriated. The remains were flown into Canadian Forces Base Trenton, and then taken southwest to Toronto, where a coroner awaited them. People young and old lined the highway, waving the red and white Canadian flag emblazoned with the maple leaf in tribute.
Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan has mostly ended, but the patriotic tributes to its fallen soldiers have not. The latest to be saluted is Sgt. Andrew Doiron, the Special Forces soldier who was killed in a friendly-fire incident in northern Iraq on Friday. It’s believed that he was killed by Kurdish troops the Canadians were training in a case of mistaken identity.
Doiron’s remains made their way down the Highway of Heroes on Tuesday. The tributes were captured in photos and videos shared on social media that underscored how much a part of Canadian culture the practice has become:
The highway was the subject of a 2010 song by the Trews, a Canadian rock band. It was inspired by the 2006 death of Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was the first female Canadian soldier killed in combat and was from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, the band’s hometown: