When Private Garrett Chidley died in Afghanistan in December 2009 while serving with the Canadian military, it hit close to home.
He was the first local fatality in Afghanistan.
His death helped galvinize Elizabeth and Michael Pratt's desire to honour the Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
In January 2011, the Pratt siblings created Langley Youth for the Fallen. The teens envisioned a tree for each person who had died and they wanted young people to take a leading role in creating the memorial.
On Oct. 2 of this year, Michael was asked to be among the dignitaries who did ceremonial inspections of the 2277 Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Cadet Corps. It was an opportunity to meet the young people who had raised funds to provide a tree for the project.
"It's great to see other youth interested in this project," Michael said.
The siblings wanted a nice grove of trees to honour Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan.
"When we first started it was literally thought that this was going to be a grouping of trees," Michael said. "We had no idea it would grow into something like this."
Their idea took root and others came forward to complement the project. Langley Township decided the memorial trees would make a fit setting for a new community cenotaph.
Michael spent time this summer working with the Rotary Club of Langley and the Arborteum and Botanical Society of Langley as they constructed the cenotaph foundation.
The new cenotaph will be a stylized metal tree, symbolizing how these soldiers were cut down in the prime of life.
While most sponsors are from the Langley area, the project has received tree sponsorship from as far away as Manitoba, media attention across the country and contact from interested people in the United States.
"We have a few schools," he added. "There are lots of community groups."
Michael said many want to sponsor a given tree in a person's name but he and his sister want to keep it as a collective project, because the soldiers were fighting for Canada.
The cadets are hoping other youth groups take up the challenge and contribute.
Most of the trees have been planted but approximately 30 trees still require sponsorship to reach the goal of 158.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a tree can contact the siblings at email@example.com or through the Langley for the Fallen Facebook page.
The cadets have an open house for anyone interested in learning more about the group for young people 1218. It's at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 (tonight) at Langley Secondary School.