Remembrance Day in Ottawa

Before dawn on November 11th, the Portraits of Honour trailer carefully made its way onto Parliament Hill, coming to rest in front of the Center Block, with the Eternal Flame burning brightly just a few meters away.

After six months travelling from coast to coast bringing the Portraits of Honour to as many of the hometowns of our fallen as possible, it was completely overwhelming to take such a place of honour in our nations capital as the city awoke to prepare for a day of remembrance.

In the still early morning silence, with only the first slivers of sun beginning to light the inky sky, the words emblazoned in white on the side of the Portraits of Honour trailer glowed in the light of the Eternal Flame:

Bringing Canadians together to remember, honour and celebrate our Canadian Forces.

Knowing that the entire day would be dedicated to this goal, that the tens of thousands of people slowly making their way into the city center would all have this same mission in mind, was a feeling of pure Canadian pride.

As day broke, military members, Kin volunteers and dignitaries began to gather for the early morning ceremony at the Portraits of Honour stage.  Scheduled to take place before the National Remembrance Day Service at the nearby War Memorial, the Portraits of Honour ceremony gave those in attendance a chance to look into the eyes of those they would soon honour.

As part of the ceremony the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Steven Blaney, The Chief of Defense Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, Kin Canada President, Dave Ronson, Silver Cross Mother, Bev McCraw and others, each took a moment to lay a wreath before the portraits.

Looking at each of the 157 faces on the mural, displayed there in such a place of national prestige, with wreaths all around them showing respect and recognition from so many, they appeared lit from within, almost alive with the knowledge that they indeed had not been forgotten.

As the first angelic strains of the choir could be heard coming from nearby and as the bell tolled insistently, signifying the start of the Remembrance Day Ceremony, those who had gathered at the portraits began to make their way to the nearby War Memorial. Looking out over the sea of people gathering to show their respect, many of whom would later visit the Portraits of Honour stage, it was clear that those who have fought and died for our country, and those who continue to serve are in the hearts and minds of the Canadian people.

From Victoria to St. John’s we have seen such displays of patriotism, compassion, pride and respect, and on this day on Parliament Hill, as thousands went silent at 11 am, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month, one felt real hope that those we have lost will never be forgotten and because of their efforts, perhaps peace is more possible than ever before.