History and homage

As Canadians debate our military’s role in Afghanistan, its evolving role in future international strife, and even the need to give the military identity a facelift, it is important to remember that armed forces, at their core, are about extraordinary people who are prepared to do remarkable things on behalf of the nation.

As Canadians debate our military’s role in Afghanistan, its evolving role in future international strife, and even the need to give the military identity a facelift, it is important to remember that armed forces, at their core, are about extraordinary people who are prepared to do remarkable things on behalf of the nation.

The average Canadian couldn’t, or wouldn’t, don a uniform and go into a field of battle. We would be ill-equipped mentally and physically to evaluate the risks, and then demonstrate the heroism and bravery that the nation expects of its military personnel.

But more than 110,000 Canadians, in active and reserve units, are members of what will now be known as the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. They understand the risks of their chosen profession and they accept those risks, even though the results can be tragic.

In the Afghan conflict, 157 Canadian military personnel have died. Not since the Korean War (1950 to 1953) have so many Canadian soldiers died in defence of freedom.

The change in name announced this week for the Canadian Forces is about “reconnecting today’s men and women in uniform with the proud history and traditions they carry with them as members of the Canadian Forces,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

If it also helps Canadians in general to pay homage to today’s soldiers — just as we do those who fell in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War — then the name change is worth the effort.

Paying homage is no small thing. It is important to show the members of the military — and their families, who are asked to make similarly extreme sacrifices — that Canadians appreciate their efforts and their sacrifice.

In late 2008, Ontario artist Dave Sopha started a project to honour Canadian military who have died in Afghanistan. It has evolved into Portraits of Honour, a three-metre-by-12-metre oil-painted mural that features the faces of all of those who have fallen in the last nine years.

Portraits of Honour is on a year-long cross-Canada tour and will stop at more than 100 locations coast to coast, raising awareness about the sacrifices our military make, and raising money for the Military Family Fund, through sponsor Kin Canada, to support soldiers who have been injured, emotionally and physically.

Sopha used photos of the soldiers, and spoke to family members, to help render each of the subjects. The project has taken him 6,500 hours to complete, he estimates. He has poured his heart into the mural, and Canadians have turned out by the thousands since the tour began in June to see it and to pay their respects.

In Red Deer, the Portraits on Honour project has evolved into a series of events, and grown to encompass a number of service groups, organizations, schools and businesses.

When the tour stops here on Sept. 16 and 17, it will include a Regimental Dinner, a Highway of Heroes along College Boulevard with a Canadian flag on display for each fallen soldier, and parades by past and present military personnel. The dinner sold out quickly and the $50,000 raised from the dinner will remain in Central Alberta to form a scholarship for local soldiers who served in Afghanistan, and their families.

The local Kinsmen also hope to raise $100,000 here for the national fund, through personal and corporate donations. It is a lofty goal.

And organizers hope to give Central Albertans a greater understanding of the depth of sacrifice made on our behalf by the military. As many as 10,000 local school children are expected to view the display.

And, hopefully, we will all be left humbled by, and more than a little thankful for, the work Canada’s military personnel do on our behalf.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read