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Commemorating Fallen soldiers with Bravery Parks

Years after the award-winning horticulturist, Peter Prakke, was approached by the mother of a fallen Canadian soldier, the two are well on their way to creating a living memorial for all Canadian soldiers.

The Bravery Parks initiative was established in 2009 after Prakke received correspondence from Valerie McGrady, the mother of Cpl. Matthew McCully.

Cpl. McCully had served as a member of Canada’s elite Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, responsible for training the Afghan National Forces.

Cpl. McCully passed away on May 25, 2007, after stepping on an improvised explosive device while conducting a joint Afghan-Canadian foot patrol west of Kandahar.

After her son’s passing, McGrady wanted to find a way to honour her son’s memory.

“She was inspired to create something,” said Prakke.

Prakke’s Bravery Park initiative seeks to accomplish a number of goals.

“First it’s honouring U.S. and Canadian soldiers, first and foremost. Nothing takes higher precedence than this. We honour those who put their country ahead of themselves and we show our recognition and appreciation,” said Prakke.

However, the Bravery Parks are also a place everyone can take advantage of because they are also about creating a park with allergy-friendly plants only. To make the outdoors a little more enjoyable to those who suffer from COPD and other allergies, the goal of Bravery Parks is to only have allergy-friendly plants, shrubs and trees.

Specifically, for the Bravery Parks, Maple trees have been chosen as the go-to allergy-friendly plant because it is also an emblem that honours Canada and it’s fallen heroes.

Work on Cpl. McCully’s Bravery Park in Orangeville, ON is currently underway. Once it is completed, the park is expected to be close to one acre and will feature seating for families to remember their soldier and, of course, allergy-friendly plants. The Orangeville Bravery Park will serve as an educational space to not only remember Canada’s fallen but also create awareness about Canada’s military and its soldiers.

Honouring and commemorating soldiers has always been an important part of Prakke’s work.

Peter Prakke was nine years old when Allied soldiers helped to liberate his small Dutch town, along with the rest of the Netherlands, during the Second World War. Prakke’s interaction with these soldiers was something he never forgot.

“Those people were number one on my mind to say thank you to and the families. They really died in my village for our freedom,” recalled Prakke.

Now, through the Bravery Parks, Prakke has found an everlasting way to commemorate Canadian soldiers.

Last year, a second Bravery Park was created in Prince George, BC to honour Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick, a Canadian Armed Forces member killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Prakke’s ultimate goal is to see Bravery Parks established across the country as a living testament to Canada’s soldiers.

To learn more or donate to the Orangeville Bravery Park click here

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