Monday, September 5, 2011

Portraits of Honour

I had the distinguished honour of being part of the executive team that brought Portraits of Honour to Wood Buffalo as part of SummersEND.  On a warm summers day near the end of June I went to a meeting at the event chair's house, Roger Hebblethwaite, for what I thought was going to be a small project.  It was soon apparent that this was going to be  much bigger  than I first thought.  Not one to back down when people throw a challenge my way I decided to dive in with everything I could bring.  As my list as media coordinator started to grow, I added on helping with the Dedication Ceremony.  It was great getting to know more people in radio, TV, and print. The one thing about Fort McMurray is that when there is a good cause, we line up behind and do it up right. 
We came together as a community to Celebrate, Honour and Remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice within our Canadian Military and those who have returned home with lasting physical or emotional injuries. The Canadian Military has served our country with pride and distinction.  The Mural is a great symbol of that heritage. The Portraits of Honour Mural  stretches 10 feet tall by 40 feet wide and features the faces of the 157 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.  The Mural serves as a reminder of the foundation of courage on which Canada rests.  As the passing of time makes ‘remembrance’ increasingly difficult, it is endeavours such as this where we can  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. As a Country, we have prospered because we’ve always had citizens willing to stand up and answer the call to serve in hours of need. Over the course of two days during SummersEND we honoured our veterans, past and present, for their unyielding sacrifice and dedication to our great Country. Canadian soldiers are our sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. They come in every possible type, as varied a group as can be found in any Canadian town or city.  Some families wait and worry in silence for the safe arrival of their sons and daughters to return from their mission, while other families have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Country.
It started with a Motorcade escort through the city on Sept. 2nd with about 60 motorcycle riders, Veterans, Support Our Troops tractor-trailer, support vehicles, firefighter truck, City By-Law, news crews and four RCMP to make sure it came through the city safe.  It was an impressive sight. 

 At the private reception that evening  there was not a dry eye in the house as the parents  of  fallen hero Lt. Justin Boyes spoke to the room.  The impact hitting home for everyone in the room. 

 The morning of September 3rd brought with it a flurry of activity as there was a public pancake breakfast and the colouring contest for the youth of Wood Buffalo were recognized.  Then the Dedication ceremony began amid the backdrop of 157 Canadian Flags with then names of the fallen soldiers emblazoned on them reminded the people present just how many 157 souls are.  You could feel the memory  of the fallen soldiers come alive in the words of Master Corporal Chris Downey as he addressed the gathered crowd. 

 In the evening, thousands more from the community had the chance to remember, honour and celebrate the heroes depicted on the mural as country star George Canyon performed his headline act with the Portraits of Honour mural as his backdrop. As he sang the heart wrenching " I Want You to Live" it was clear the crowd could sense the loss that the families of the fallen heroes.

I leave you with the poem that was read by Angela Boyes, Mother of Fallen Hero Lt. Justin Boyes :
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

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