June 20: St.Catharines Hosts a Highway of Heroes

When the Portraits of Honour National Tour was being planned, it was often described as being a way to provide Canadians with a place to mourn the loss of the fallen, honour their sacrifice and show their support for our troops publicly. It would be a sort of mobile Highway of Heroes, a national icon that would beckon Canadians to gather in solidarity and pride.

Travelling to St. Catharines we saw that dream come to fruition.  As the Portraits of Honour convoy drove from Grimsby to St. Catharines, dozens lined the bridges overhead waving flags and cheering. The local fire department had trucks stationed on every bridge as firemen saluted the passing caravan.  It was so moving to realize that while they had turned this stretch of road into their own highway of heroes, they were saluting not 1 fallen troop returning home, but 156 soldiers, sailors and aircrew that had given all.

In St.Catharines the widow of Warrant Officer Dennis Brown spoke to the crowd, explaining how she has attended many memorials where her late husband is just a name on a wall, or how people she encounters ask “ what number was he”, referring to when in the list of 156 fallen he had lost his life.

“With this portrait” she said, “ My husband and the others who have lost their lives in this Afghanistan mission will now be remembered as people, with a face, and personality in their eyes. “

The opportunity to see each of the fallen as an individual, as a person who had dreams and hopes and fears is what inspired those near St.Catharines to line the bridges . We hope to see this same honour paid on highways and streetsides all across this great nation as we travel coast to coast.