In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Portraits of honour

Posted 9/19/2011 by Grant Mitchell

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On Saturday, Sep 10, 2011, my wife, Teresa, and I attended a dinner for the “Portraits of Honour” tour. This is a tour sponsored by Kin Canada, the Kinsmen and Kinettes, of a huge and powerful mural of the portraits of all the Canadian Afghanistan war, military fallen.  All 157 of the fallen men and (one) woman have been painted by Dave Sopha, an artist who has spent much of his life commemorating our military with his art.

They are also touring the “Seventh Book of Remembrance” which records the names of all Canadian military personnel who have died in the line of duty since October 1, 1947. It follows the other six such books in which all of Canada’s war dead are noted. All seven books are kept in the chapel at the base of the Peace Tower in Ottawa. This apparently the first time that one of the books has been allowed to leave and travel across Canada.

Dinners like this are being held by Kin Canada in many places in Canada. This one, and I expect the others, are attended by families of the fallen, military personnel, members of other protective services and concerned and interested members of the public. It was a very moving and appropriate event that caught both the sadness of what that mural represents and the pride and honour that it equally reflects.

General J.H. Vance was the featured guest speaker. His talk captured the important balance between sadness and pride and he gave some very important insights into this war. He made the point that in “traditional” wars there were clearly definitive victories. While there were always casualties, the beach would be taken or some other objective would be captured. Casualties could therefore be judged in the context of a victory. In Afghanistan, while there were often casualties, there was often not the same kind of objective “wins”. This puts additional pressures on the war effort and the military and challenges our perceptions of the progress of such a war effort. He made the point that in Afghanistan, he evaluated victory in the numbers of girls attending schools, markets open, road projects being completed, vaccinations being given, etc. It said to me that ours is both an effective and very sophisticated military.

He was also very careful never to glorify war. He said that our military set out each day in Afghanistan, not to be heroic, but simply to do their job that day; to meet that Afghan leader, to help a village, to clear an area. To do the right thing. 

Thanks to Kin Canada and to all the families of the military, the fallen and wounded especially, and our military personnel.

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