Tuesday, May 31 was an emotional day for many at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton as the wing hosted the Seventh Book of Remembrance and Portraits of Honour national tours at the National Air Force Museum of Canada.
“We are extremely honoured to be the first stop for the Seventh Book of Remembrance and first Canadian Forces base stop for the Portraits of Honour,” said wing commander Colonel Dave Cochrane to 8 Wing members, community leaders, family members of fallen Canadians and other distinguished guests.
“While these started as two individual initiatives, they unite under a common theme. Both serve as a reminder of the foundation of courage on which Canada rests.”
Veterans Affairs Canada, through the Canada Remembers initiative, gave visitors to the NAFMC an unprecedented opportunity to view the In the Service of Canada: The Seventh Book of Remembrance. On this historical occasion, the Book was displayed for the first time ever outside of Ottawa.
The Seventh Book of Remembrance contains the names of more than 1,700 men and women who have died in the service of Canada since October 1947. It is normally displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill where a page is turned every day.
The names of Canadian Forces personnel whose deaths were related to Afghanistan service are also commemorated in this Book; families of fallen Canadians who were at the Tuesday morning ceremony had the rare chance to see the Book’s pages turned to where the names of their loved ones are inscribed.
The Portraits of Honour exhibit, a painted 10 by 40 foot mural created by Cambridge-based artist Dave Sopha, portrays the faces of all 156 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.
The launch of these exhibits that pay tribute to fallen Canadians was all the more poignant as 8 Wing Trenton held the repatriation ceremony for Bombardier Karl Manning on the same day. Bdr Manning died Friday, May 27 while on deployment in Afghanistan.
At the time of the unveiling of the Portraits of Honour mural at 8 Wing, Mr. Sopha had already begun sketching Bdr Manning’s portrait and posted the sketch on the mural alongside the others.
The mural received sponsorship from Kin Canada, Canada’s oldest all-Canadian service organization, and is mounted to a specialized mobile display trailer that will travel across Canada until December visiting the hometowns of all those depicted in addition to several other communities. The group aims to raise more than $2 million to support injured troops and the Military Families Fund.
Mr. Sopha began painting the mural in 2008, dedicating an average of 16 hours per day, seven days a week to his “labour of love”.
“Our goal is to make sure that everyone who sees a soldier on the street shows them the respect they deserve,” said Mr. Sopha with visible emotion following a standing ovation recognizing his more than 6,500 hours of dedicated work. He says he hopes his mural will give Canadians from coast to an opportunity to celebrate the men and women portrayed.
“As the passing of time makes ‘remembrance’ increasingly difficult, these endeavours pay homage to the achievements and sacrifices made by those who served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace and to promote an understanding of the significance of these efforts in Canadian life as we know it today,” said Col Cochrane. “It is thanks to initiatives such as these [Canada Remembers and Portraits of Honour] that remembrance is able to survive.”
For more information on Portraits of Honour and the tour’s schedule, visit www.portraitsofhonour.ca.
For more information about the Seventh Book of Remembrance and the Canada Remembers program, visit www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers.