July 13: Flags Fly For Fallen in Prince George

After a picturesque drive through the mountains from Calgary, the Portraits of Honour National Tour arrived in Prince George, British Columbia. Looking around as we arrived, the city seemed quiet and as such the team began to expect a low key event the following day. 

As we exited the hotel the following morning for the short walk to the display location, we were all stunned by the sight that greeted us. Lining the roadway from the nearby legion to Civic Plaza where the Portraits of Honour Mural was set-up, were 157 Canadian flags representing the 157 heroes that have fallen in Afghanistan. On each of the flagpoles, the name of one of the fallen was emblazoned. Flapping in the breeze, these large flags almost enveloped those who walked between them, and it was impossible not to be moved by how many 157 really is.

Picturing each flag as an individual lining the roadway illustrated just how devastating the loss of these young lives is, and just how much gratitude we owe these fallen heroes and their families.

Set up near the stage were two flags with a special place of honour in this tight knit community - those representing local fallen trooper Corporal Darren Fitzpatrick and one for Corporal Matthew McCully who has family in the area.

After a brief ceremony during which local dignitaries and artist, Dave Sopha spoke, it became clear to us that we were not the only ones feeling overwhelmed and deeply moved. 

"I am absolutely overwhelmed and amazed to see my son's portrait for the first time," said Colleen Fitzpatrick mother of Corporal Darren Fitzpatrick,"It means so much that he will be honoured all across this country."

And it wasn't just family of the fallen that were moved. A local woman speaking of her father who had been a veteran in WWII said that if he had been alive to see the mural, "his heart would have leapt out of his chest with pride."

Later in the day, the Portraits were moved to Citizen Field to be displayed at The World Baseball Challenge. Those attending the game took time to view the Portraits and many were moved to tears to see the sacrifice made by these young Canadians displayed so poignantly.  

Many of the local sponsors that had supported the effort to bring the mural to Prince George stopped by as well, and the pride they felt in bringing this opportunity for remembrance to their community was clear. From their efforts to obtain sponsorship, to their commitment to enduring remembrance, the local organizing committee certainly hit a home run.