Jets to herald arrival of Portraits of Honour tour

A squad of RCAF fighter jets will blast over the City of Lacombe as part of the Portraits of Honour National Tour, coming through Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer and Lacombe later this week.

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A squad of RCAF fighter jets will blast over the City of Lacombe as part of the Portraits of Honour National Tour, coming through Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer and Lacombe later this week.

Now nearing completion, Portraits of Honour is a giant mural featuring the faces of Canadian military staff killed in Afghanistan.

Ontario artist David Sopha has poured heart and soul into the project, started in 2008 after the 100th Canadian was killed there, said Kinsmen member Dwight Baird, who is organizing the Lacombe stop on Sunday.

Sopha’s portraits are so real, digital cameras have offered red-eye correction, said Baird.

The National Tour is being sponsored and organized by Kin Canada and the Kin Canada Foundation along with Sopha, with proceeds received at each of its stops directed toward the Military Families Fund and other established military charities.

Sopha, who is travelling with the mural, has refused to accept payment for the work that occupies him for an average of 16 hours a day, allowing Kin Canada to provide only the supplies he needs to finish the project.

The tour has zigzagged across the country since its launch in Kitchener, Ont. on June 1, reaching Stettler Monday and heading from there to Drayton Valley.

The specially-designed truck and trailer carrying the mural is due in Rocky Mountain House on Thursday, where it will be on view at the Arena Complex from noon until 4 p.m. Local Kinsmen will host a barbecue during viewing hours.

From there, the tour travels to Red Deer where it will spend two days parked at Red Deer College, open for public viewing from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Supporters of the Red Deer leg of the tour will set up a Highway of Heroes, featuring one Canadian flag posted for each of the fallen along College Boulevard.

Red Deer events include a ceremony at the College at 11 a.m. on Friday and a military parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Red Deer Kinsmen have also organized a private regimental dinner at the Black Knight Inn on Friday evening, featuring a speech by a living hero, General Rick Hillier (retired), former Chief of the Defence Staff. Red Deer Kinsmen are selling tickets at $1,200 per table of eight.

Lacombe events kick off at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday at the Lacombe Memorial Cente with a military parade to the Lacombe Sport and Leisure Complex, where the mural will be on display.

The CF-18 fighter jets are due overhead at 1 p.m. to start the afternoon barbecue, which runs until 5 p.m. and includes a variety of entertainers.

There is no charge for the hot dogs, but people are being encouraged to bring donations, said Baird.

The mural moves on to Calgary on Monday.

Details of the tour can be visited online at www.portraitsofhonour.com

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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