September 12: Solidarity in Stettler

If September 11 was a day of somber remembrance, then September 12th proved to be one of hope for the Portraits of Honour National Tour.

The day began with Artist Dave Sopha addressing more than 700 school children in Stettler, nearly every student in the small community of only 6500 people.  The students each held a Canadian flag and listened intently as Mr. Sopha spoke about the good work that our Canadian Forces are doing in Afghanistan and the better future those who paid the ultimate sacrifice have helped to create.

After leaving the school, the Portraits of Honour travelled to a nearby park where 157 Canadian flags lined the edges of a pond.  It was a moving sight as dignitaries led by a colour party marched over the bridge, across the pond, with the flags representing all of the fallen flapping around them.

After a mid- day ceremony that was extremely well attended by community members, locals enjoyed a fundraising BBQ, with meals for nearly 800 being prepared.

Some of those who could not attend the ceremony or BBQ had become involved as flag sponsors, accommodation sponsors and even a last minute fuel sponsor who filled the Portraits of Honour rig with fuel from his own shop.  It seemed that every member of the Stettler community contributed to the Portraits of Honour in their own way.  This allowed Stettler to donate a dollar amount more than 3 times their population!

And the community involvement didn’t stop there. As the Portraits of Honour caravan made its way out of Stettler the highway was lined with townspeople waving flags and shouting their support. Emergency responders saluted, and flags even flew from combines lining the road. Overhead a ladder truck supported a large Canadian flag flying high over the highway.  The last image of Stettler as the Portraits of Honour caravan rolled on toward Drayton Valley was that of a soldier standing atop this ladder truck saluting until the caravan was out of sight.

From start finish the people of Stettler embraced the Portraits of Honour as something worthy of respect, support and honour. This means so much to those behind the project, providing hope that what we are doing really will endure in the minds of Canadians. It also provides hope to the families of the fallen and those still serving that Canadians do care, that they are not too busy or callous to stop and show their respects, and that help will be provided when it is needed.

This tour was created to engage communities and bring Canadians together in solidarity behind our troops, both active and fallen, and to raise funds for those who need it most.  The people of Stettler showed that if each member of the community gives what they can of their time, resources, care and consideration, even the smallest of places can make a huge impact.