May 31:  CFB Trenton:  What an amazing day!

The Portraits of Honour National Tour made it's first official tour stop yesterday.  When tour organizers first set the schedule many months ago, they knew they wanted Trenton to be the first stop.  Each of our fallen heroes have returned to Canada to a military honours repatriation ceremony on the ramp of CFB Trenton.  They then travel with their family down Ontario's 401 freeway which we now know as Canada's Highway of Heroes.  They eventually reach their final resting place.  And finally, they are honoured eternally when Dave Sopha completes their portrait onto the Portraits of Honour mural.

What organizers could have never anticipated in their planning many months ago was the fact that Canada would lose it's 156th fallen, Bombadier Karl Manning and they certainly could not have expected that his repatriation ceremony would take place the same day as the POH visit to Trenton.

While sad for everyone, it could not have been a more appropriate place for the tour to be yesterday.

A special ceremony, complete with colour guard and several dignitaries including 8 Wing, CFB Trenton Base Commander, Colonel Dave Cochrane took place at 10:30am and it was followed by a public viewing.  Several families of fallen soldiers were in attendance and the outpouring of emotion was overwhelming.

Out of respect to Bdr. Manning, the mural was covered up during his ceremony and the tour team stood solemnly -- some at attention, others waving Canadian flags -- while the police escorted funeral procession passed a mere 50 yards from the POH trailer.

Immediately following the ramp ceremony, a buzz started to go through the base and soldiers and aircrew seemed to increase their pace.  We quickly learned that Minister of National Defence, Honourable Peter McKay and Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk had made a special request to delay their flight back to Ottawa to allow them to travel across the base to see the Portraits of Honour mural.  Of course we were honoured and Dave did a special unveiling alongside our distinguished guests. 

Even though both General Natynczyk and Minister McKay had already seen the mural in person before, they both spent several minutes soaking it in, sharing stories about some of the troops depicted and their personal connections to them.

The day was capped off by an entertaining gala dinner hosted by the local Kin and emceed by District 6 Governor Bruce Airhard who organized both the ceremony and dinner.  A special thanks is offered to Ms. Barb Neri, Public Relations Officer for the National Air Force Museum of Canada.  It is an amazing and special place that does a wonderful job honouring many fallen troops.  We could not have asked for a more fitting setting to hold our first stop.