I’ve blogged before about different ways Canadians have honoured fallen soldiers. But this winter I learned of another, after a neighbour attending a woodworking show with her husband came upon a display of portraits of Canadian soldiers who have fallen in Afghanistan.
Stephen Gaebel describes the first time his paintings were exhibited publicly – on Remembrance Day in 2008:
What really struck me that morning was meeting members of the Canadian Armed Forces, individuals who had served with and personally knew some of the guys in the paintings. One of the most touching things that day was watching as these men and women silently filed past the row of portaits, paying tribute to a comrade and friend by removing the poppies they wore and placing them along the portraits.
Until that day, he hadn’t really thought about what he was going to do with the portraits he’d been painting, but when he met the mother of Trooper Mark Wilson, it became obvious. You can read about ‘A brilliant shining moment’ for Stephen on his blog.
“Looking into these faces,” says Stephen, “I’ve never felt more proud or more humble to be Canadian.” His love of his country comes through clearly in the landscapes he paints – landscapes he sells prints of in order to support The Fallen Canadian Soldier Project.
“A landscape or a portrait, they are one and the same. The fire and the fury, the north wind’s blast, the morning mist mirrored in the stillness of a lake – these things that shape the face of the landscape have also shaped us.”
My neighbour told Stephen about Highway of Heroes. He insisted on sending me a print, in recognition of my way of honouring our fallen, and I’ve sent him a copy of the book in return. I hope the students I met with in Scarborough last week, and those students who will read Highway of Heroes as part of the Hackmatack Award program in the coming school year will be inspired to give some thought to how they might pay tribute to those they consider heroes, whether they’re soldiers or otherwise.