On Monday morning, each Stettler school had the occasion to spend 20 minutes visiting the touring Portraits of Honour van, which was parked between Christ-King Catholic School and Stettler Elementary School.
The students were unusually quiet and sombre while artist Gary Sopha talked about the giant mural he painted of the 156 Canadian soldiers that have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
“We are just very blessed to be able to be a part of the Portraits of Honour tour,” said Stettler Middle School principal Sharon Fischer.
“I hope that the students will gain from this an appreciation for the fallen soldiers and for what our army is doing for us.”
While the Portraits of Honour stop in Stettler was a last-minute decision, many teachers found a way to integrate it into their study program.
“It fits in with the curriculum and some of the areas, so we will definitely tie it where we can,” Fischer said.
Leona Thorogood, vice president of the Kin Canada Foundation and member of the Portraits of Honour organizing committee, was very happy with the Stettler schools’ turnout.
“The kids were phenomenal,” she said. “As young adults, you could not ask for a better group of kids, both the high school and the middle school. They have been extremely attentive.”
Thorogood hopes that seeing the portrait will make the kids more conscious of the Canadian army efforts in Afghanistan.
“It is about bringing it to all of us here in Canada,” she said. “We are so far removed. We do not know what it is like and this just brings a little bit of it home to each and every one of us.”
Fischer agreed with Thorogood.
“It is emotional, especially when you look into the eyes and faces and these young men and women,” Fischer said. “Lots of them were very young.”
While Thorogood and the host committee also invited outlying schools to visit Portraits of Honour, all of them declined, citing timing difficulties.
“I certainly hope that they will be able to (see it) at some point this afternoon,” Thorogood said.
During the daylong Stettler visit, the Portraits of Honour events included noontime speeches and a barbecue and an evening colour parade.
Monday’s ceremonies were just one day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.