Silent passage marks final miles of soldier’s journey home

The Don Valley Parkway, closed for weekend repairs, was swept open Sunday afternoon for the small procession of cars carrying the body of Major Michelle Mendes, the latest Canadian soldier to journey home along the Highway of Heroes.

As the hearse bearing her body completed its final few miles to a downtown morgue, a small crowd gathered atop the overpass at Wynford Drive to take in the rare scene of solitude along one of Toronto’s busiest transportation corridors.

Large crowds, especially near Maj. Mendes’ hometown of Grafton, paid tribute earlier along the 170-kilometre stretch of Highway 401, linking Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Toronto.

North York resident Don Davis, whose father was a veteran of the Second World War, says he frequently comes out to give his respects to all the fallen soldiers.

“You just simply showing respect that is what you are doing,” Davis said, “When the road is busy it’s quite remarkable; people are honking their horns when the procession goes by…you wave to the families of the deceased and the families wave back and it is quite the emotional experience.”

Toronto EMS workers Joe Sotelo and Jeff Kellett say they attend the processions whenever they are able.

George Morrison, whose father was also a veteran says he started coming to these events after his father passed away. “He received a Canadian flag from the veterans and I fly that,” Morrison said.

As the procession passed by, the DVP lay wide open before them, silent, not a car in sight. Morrison raised his flag while others stood silently by.

Major Mendes was found dead in her quarters at the Kandahar airbase. She is the second female soldier to die while during Canada’s operations there.

Filed by Alexandra Kazia