Currently Raised: $800,000

An emotional unveiling

Photo by Jerome Lessard

A sketch of Bombadier Karl Manning is the most recent addition to the mural depicting the faces of fallen Canadian Forces Members.

On the day of Manning’s repatriation, the Portraits of Honor made its first national tour stop at the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton.

The 10-foot by 40-foot mural was unveiled in front of members of CFB Trenton, the public and families and friends of fallen Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said London resident Carolyn Wilson, as she viewed the portrait of her son, trooper Mark Wilson, Tuesday morning.

Her son was serving in Afghanistan in 2006 with the Royal Canadian Dragoon’s from CFB Petawawa, when the vehicle he was travelling in struck a roadside bomb. He was 39.

“I think the mural is fantastic, we’ve become very close with some of the other families of fallen soldiers,” she said.

“I also think it’s good for the wounded soldiers, who come back, to see their comrades remembered on here,” added her husband, Carl.

The mural was painted by Cambridge Kinsmen and artist Dave Sopha, who painted an average of 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Now that we have the 156th soldier coming home, to me it’s a very sad day,” said Sopha during the unveiling. “I thought it was going to be a little more uplifting and exciting. It is still exciting to see people out honouring them, and I know it’s going to get probably more emotional as we go along on this long, seven-month journey.”

Sopha began working on the mural in 2008. Shortly after he started, he contacted Kin Canada to see if the group would help bring more exposure to the portrait.

“I decided that I wanted to take this across the country, not just leave it in a building,” said Sopha, who has been a member of Kin Canada for more than 30 years. “I wanted all of Canada (to see it). And I knew I couldn’t do that on my own.”

Sopha said Kin Canada “jumped on board” right away. He said he knew then the project would get the honour and the respect it deserves.

Sopha said the goal of the tour is to allow Canadians from coast-to-coast an opportunity to “remember, honour, and celebrate” the fallen men and women of the Canadian Forces.

As part of the tour, Kin Canada, along with Veterans Affairs and the Canada Remembers Initiative, also brought another important piece of the country’s history.

The Seventh Book of Remembrance was also on display at the museum. The book bears the names of more than 1,700 people who have died in the service of Canada since 1947, excluding the Korean War.

Except for cleaning, the book has never left the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.

“There is nothing we can do to bring back those who have left us, so we must honour them,” said CFB Trenton commanding officer Col. Dave Cochrane. “We owe it to Bombadier Manning, and all those who sacrifice so much in defense of this wonderful country to promote remembrance. Their sacrifices must not be in vain. They can never be forgotten.

“Today, Veterans Affairs Canada through the Canada Remembers initiative, brings us an unprecedented chance to view the seventh book of remembrance.”

The mural and book were available for public viewing at the museum until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The tour will return to the region on June 6, at the Picton fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

How can Canadians give to help build the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial? Please join all Canadians coast to coast who have already been giving to this Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial Fund. This is not a government initiative, but solely funded by Canadians honoring Canadian soldiers. Individuals, companies and organizations are all welcome to contribute to the fund to complete the $1.5 million dollar project. Donations, no matter how small, will make this a reality.

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