Sept. 12 is shaping up to be a red-letter day in Stettler.
The heart of Alberta has been chosen as one of the cross-Canada stops for the Portraits of Honour tour in recognition of the 157 fallen soldiers, sailors and aircrew from Canada’s mission to Afghanistan.
“It’s to honour, remember and celebrate our Armed Forces — our soldiers, sailors and aircrew that have preserved and fight for the freedoms that we enjoy as Canadians,” said Stettler organizer Leona Thorogood, a town councillor.
“It is so important to the military and their families to have this portrait go across Canada, because it’s a chance for each of us to say thank you to them for what they have sacrificed and what they are doing for us.”
“And it’s not just the soldiers that have passed away. It’s (saluting) those that are returning and those that are returning with issues — whether it may be mental, physical or whatever. It’s a chance for each of us to be able to say thank you to them.”
The national tour swings into Stettler for a noon ceremony at West Stettler Park that includes the unveiling of the portrait, a barbecue from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and an opportunity for the public to view the portrait until 6 p.m.
“The additional facet that we’re adding to the project is a departure escort out of Stettler,” Thorogood announced Monday, exactly two weeks before the visit.
“By 6:30 p.m., the portrait will be actually leaving town in the truck and they’ll be heading off to their next destination. So, like they do on (Onatrio’s Highway) 401 whenever the repatriated Canadian Forces person is coming back home, the public, the emergency services (and) everybody comes out and simply lines the 401.”
“Because these are the 157 soldiers of Afghanistan, we would like to be able to pay our respects as they leave Stettler. So we’re asking anyone from the public that wants to participate to line the highway between Bagshaw Electric and Agro (Equipment) Stettler, come out wearing red, wearing a flag, and to just do whatever it is that you feel would be appropriate to say goodbye to the soldiers as they leave Stettler.”
In parade fashion, emergency services personnel and firefighters plan to participate in the evening sendoff, Thorogood said.
“It’s just a way to say goodbye and thank you for coming to Stettler.”
Kin Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion are teaming up to present a colour ceremony that kicks off the noon program.
“There’s a couple of ways that people can contribute,” Thorogood said. “We’re selling large Canadian flags which will be rimmed around West Stettler Park, and those flags are available for a $200 sponsorship.”
“There are also smaller flags selling for $5 that are going to be sold at the table there (on Sept. 12) and they’ll be at Sobeys and Wal-Mart a couple of weeks prior.”
Anyone wanting to sponsor a $200 flag can contact Thorogood at 403-740-9121 or Jacqui Mvula at 403-742-3277.
“There’ll also be an opportunity at the painting (viewing) just to drop in a donation,” Thorogood said. “You can either do an anonymous donation or you can get a receipted donation there as well.
“There’s going to be small flags that will be available for a loonie or a toonie, so children can participate in this and they can take their smaller flags and plant them around West Stettler Park when they come to see the portrait.”
Guest speakers are on the noon agenda.
“A retired chief warrant officer is coming to speak that day,” Thorogood said.
“He will tell us a little bit about some of the tours that he has done. Plus, we have some other military members who are willing to stay around all afternoon and talk with anyone who would like to do so. The (portrait) artist will also be there.”
For more details, visit www.portraitsofhonour.com, or email Thorogood at firstname.lastname@example.org.