It’s one thing to hear about our soldiers who lost their lives during Canada’s long mission in Afghanistan, to see their flag-draped caskets lowered from an aircraft, or to stand by their gravesides. But it’s quite another thing to look them in the eye, even in a portrait, knowing that their dedication to our country has exacted from them the most costly of all sacrifices—their lives.
I had that profoundly moving experience recently, when the Canada-wide Portraits of Honour tour visited Yorkton.
The full three-season tour, organized by the Kin foundation, features a remarkable painted mural, 10 feet tall and 40 feet long. This work of art, inspired and oil-painted by Ontario artist Dave Sopha, features the faces of each of the 156 members of Canada’s armed forces killed in Afghanistan.
I have a particular interest in Afghanistan. Before the May federal election, I chaired the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. It was our job to review how our involvement enhanced the Afghan National Security Forces. We also kept abreast of the roles and projects of our Canadian troops. Projects like the rehabilitation of the massive Dahla Dam. After an extensive rebuild, it now allows farmers to diversify their crops.
Our troops also built numerous schools, enabling the enrolment of seven million children, a full third of them girls. And because of our presence in Afghanistan, women now engage in business – an unprecedented social development.
Each soldier’s sacrifice will forever impact and inspire his or her family, friends and community. But they have also left a lasting legacy in Afghanistan.
The Portraits of Honour tour is bringing Canadians together for a worthy purpose. Jointly we remember and mourn. But we also celebrate good and right accomplishments made in the name of a country known for defending what is good and right – no matter where in the world those values are endangered.
But this tour is accomplishing another goal. Across Canada, people are showing immense gratitude to our troops who have sacrificed their lives in the name of peace and security. They are also donating funds to help families left behind, and others returning from duty damaged by war.
I salute the efforts of artist Dave Sopha and the Kin Foundation. May God grant each tour member safety and strength until the journey’s end in December.