Tribute to fallen troops to stop in city

A mural honouring the Canadian men and women who lost their life in the Afghan war will make a two-day stop in Red Deer this September during its cross-country tour.

Portraits of Honour artist Dave Sopha adds detail to the portrait of Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht

Portraits of Honour artist Dave Sopha adds detail to the portrait of Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht

A mural honouring the Canadian men and women who lost their life in the Afghan war will make a two-day stop in Red Deer this September during its cross-country tour.

The large oil painting titled Portraits of Honour is a tribute showcasing an image of each soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our national freedom, said Ray McBeth, co-chair of the Red Deer tour stop committee.

“My gut feeling is Canadians, we sometimes fail to recognize the price that others have paid for the freedoms that we enjoy,” he said.

Kin Canada is therefore touring the canvas across the country to give residents an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of Canada’s fallen soldiers.

Artist and Kin Canada member Dave Sopha was inspired to start the project in his Ontario home when Pte. Demetrios Diplaros was killed by an improvised explosive device on Dec. 5, 2008. The death brought the number of Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan to 100.

Warrant Officer Robert Wilson and Cpl. Mark McLaren also died in the explosion.

The mural now stands 10-feet tall and stretches 50-feet wide to reveal 156 faces of the Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew who died since the Afghanistan mission began in 2002.

Tour supervisor Jessilyn Yuhas said Sopha finished the final sketch and started adding to the mural last week the image of Master Cpl. Francis Roy, the 157th and last soldier to die before Canada ended its combat mission in the war torn country in July.

At least one of the individuals featured in the mural has ties to Red Deer.

Sgt. Martin Goudreault lived in the city from Grade 2 to 10 and was an active member of the Red Deer Army Cadets. He was killed on June 6, 2010 by an improvised explosive device.

The Kinsmen and Rotary Clubs of Central Alberta are hosting the Portraits of Honour tour stop on Sept. 16 and 17 at the main entrance of Red Deer College.

Both days will start with a parade of Legion members, Canadian Forces personnel, local cadets and RCMP marching down College Boulevard, which will be renamed Boulevard of Heros for the event.

The road will be lined with 157 Canadian flags.

McBeth said 100 of the flags have been sponsored so far for $750 each to help the service clubs meet their goal of raising $100,000 to support Kin Canada’s financial commitment to assist families of the fallen soldiers.

The clubs also planned a regimental dinner featuring Gen.-retired Rick Hillier, the former chief of defence staff of the Canadian Forces, for Sept. 16 at the Black Knight Inn. The event sold out within a few weeks, McBeth said.

The dinner will help raise $50,000 that will stay in Central Alberta as a scholarship for soldiers who served in Afghanistan and their families.

“When we started to organize the regimental dinner, the first thing that we wanted to do was ensure that there was a legacy left for Red Deer,” McBeth said.

Portraits of Honour will be on display in Red Deer from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 16 and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 17.

The committee has reached out to the local school divisions and McBeth anticipates anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 students will visit the mural.

There is no charge to view Portraits of Honour and the various other displays, but donations will be accepted to support Kin Canada’s efforts to help families of the deceased soldiers.

Kin Canada started the Portraits of Honour tour on June 1 and expects it will take one year to complete the national journey.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com