Part of the Family in Petawawa

When Portraits of Honour visited CFB Petawawa, we had the opportunity to see just how much family means to our Canadian Forces.

Arriving midday, the Base Commander had organized a lunch for the crew and local dignitaries.  At first the luncheon was formal, with conversation focused on the National Tour and the impact it has had on Canadians across the country, but suddenly, everyone at the table broke out singing “ Happy Birthday.” It turned out that the Base Commander had been alerted to the fact that it was the 60th birthday of Artist Dave Sopha’s wife, Penny.  Completely surprised by the thought and consideration given to a member of our team by people we had before met, we asked those who had planned it why they had gone to so much trouble.

“The military are like family, because our families are often very far away, “ the Base Commander said. “Anyone who serves, or supports those who serve, are part of our family.”

At this same luncheon, the Base Commander presented artist, Dave Sopha, with a print. The print featured a stag standing atop a rocky ledge with the Ottawa river depicted in background. The stag is the official animal of Petawawa and the rocky ledge represents the Canadian Shield. Written into the rock were the words “training ground of the warrior.”

This is a most fitting phrase for Petawawa. As the most operational base in Canada, CFB Petawawa has deployed thousands of soldiers to conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the world. The Base Commander told us that, apart from the newest recruits, he could not think of anyone on the base who had not done one or more tours in Afghanistan.

Conflict is dangerous, and many of these brave young warriors who venture forth from Petawawa return wounded or never return at all, leaving wives and children and parents and husbands shattered.

This is where that military family that the Base Commander spoke of steps in. They rally around these families as they grieve their loss and try to recover.  As the Portraits of Honour Tour has travelled across this nation, we have endeavored to raise as much money as possible to support these families in their time of need. I suppose in this way, we are family after all.