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Boomer among 156 fallen honoured in Portraits of Heroes tour

The Portraits of Honour National Tour comes to Comox this Sunday, displaying handpainted portraits of the 156 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan. - Photo submitted
The Portraits of Honour National Tour comes to Comox this Sunday, displaying handpainted portraits of the 156 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Cpl. Andrew (Boomer) Eykelenboom and other fallen Canadian soldiers will be honoured Sunday when the Portraits of Honour National Tour comes to Comox.

The Portraits of Honour National Tour is centred on a 10-foot-by-35-foot mural featuring the hand-painted portraits of the 156 Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew who have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan.

The mural includes a portrait of Eykelenboom, a medic from Comox who lost his life in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2006.

Many of the other members depicted were close personal friends of some of the more than 1,000 service members currently posted to 19 Wing Comox.

The Portraits of Honour National Tour selected Comox as one of its exclusive stops on the West Coast.

It arrives Sunday when the Comox Valley Kin Club hosts a special welcoming ceremony and public viewing at Comox Marina Park from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Canadian country singer Aaron Pritchett will attend the ceremony to deliver a musical tribute.

In addition to this very special exhibit, in a precedent-setting gesture, Veterans Affairs Canada brought the Seventh Book of Remembrance from the Peace Tower in Ottawa to accompany the mural.

During the event, the Seventh Book of Remembrance was displayed at the Comox Legion just up the hill from Marina Park.

As a special tribute to Comox and the Eykelenboom family, the book will be turned to the page that displays Eykelenboom’s name.

The Books of Remembrance contain the names of all the Canadians who have lost their lives in service to Canada and normally only leave the Peace Tower in Ottawa for inscription.

History will be made as Comox welcomes the Seventh Book in its first public tour.

The Portraits of Honour mural has taken Kinsman and volunteer artist Dave Sopha more than 6,500 hours to paint so far, but he admits that his work won’t be complete until our combat mission in Afghanistan comes to a close.

The mural, making its way across Canada in a specialized mobile display trailer, began its journey in Kitchener, Ont., May 27, with Gov.-Gen. David Johnston officiating.

It stopped in Calgary last weekend, where it was visited by Prince William and Catherine, as the final stop in their tour of Canada.

Throughout the tour, organizers expect to raise more than $1.5 million across Canada to support the Military Families Fund and established military charities to assist families of the fallen and to assist the thousands of military personnel who return home with physical or emotional injuries.

Comox Valley Kin Club president Jim Lalic hopes to raise $5,000 locally to benefit the non-profit Comox Military Family Resource Centre.

“There are so many brave men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the Canadian Forces and so many strong families who remain behind to support them," he said. "The Comox MFRC works hard to develop programs and resources that support military families and help them to cope with the demands that frequent deployments place on their daily lives.”

Many 19 Wing members have or are currently serving in Afghanistan and in other locations around the world.

For information on the Portraits of Honour National Tour, visit www.portraitsofhonour.ca.

— Comox Valley Kin Club

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