SYLVAN LAKE – A biting wind seems somewhat fitting as 116 Canadian flags flap and strain at their moorings in remembrance of Canadians who have fallen in service to their country over the past 100 years. At noon on Saturday, the 116th flag was raised to commemorate 116,000 Canadian men and women killed on duty since the opening shot was fired in the First World War.
The last flag to be raised will bear a plaque memorializing the most recent losses: reservists Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo, killed last week on home soil. Vincent died in a targeted hit and run in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. on Monday. Cirillo was shot at close range while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The inaugural edition of Flags of Remembrance is the brainchild of Veterans Voices of Canada founder Allan Cameron and supporter Deryn Blondheim.
In a speech during the flag raising at noon on Saturday, Cameron said he and Blondheim were talking over a coffee earlier this year about ways to raise money for Veterans Voices of Canada.
Cameron created the non-profit organization to create video interviews with combat veterans, telling their own stories in their own words.
Cameron has been criss-crossing the country, focusing on Second World War vets so he can catch as many as possible before their time runs out.
The videos are provided free of charge to vets and their families as well as to schools and libraries, so Veterans Voices of Canada has had to find other means to raise money to keep the project going.
The idea came to fruition when the Blue Grass Sod Farm offered its fenceline and access to one of its fields, located alongside Hwy 11, about 1.5 miles east of Sylvan Lake. Cameron felt people would be impressed at the sight of a long row of Canadian flags, especially knowing that each flag was raised in tribute to 1,000 people killed on duty. As of Saturday afternoon, Veterans Voices of Canada had found sponsors for roughly half of the flags, offered with a minimum donation of $200 each. He has invited people to sponsor a flag in tribute to an individual veteran of their choice, with that person’s name to be place on a memorial plaque in the shape of a maple leaf and placed at the base of the flag.
Flags and plaques will be returned to their sponsors on the Saturday after Remembrance Day, when the display will be dismantled. Even before this project started to come together, Cameron was dreaming of bigger things. He hopes to erect similar displays across Canada in the near future – at least one in every province and territory. Visit Flags of Remembrance on Facebook to learn more, or contact Veterans Voices of Canada, 403-358-6313.