An early-morning tribute to Canada’s veterans and war dead last week attracted no shortage of participants, who gathered at 6:45 a.m. for the occasion.
A crowd of about 120 — comprising police officers, firefighters, veterans and civilians from all over Central Alberta — lined up along the flag display east of Sylvan Lake, and stood post for one hour on the morning of Oct. 29.
Participants then released balloons into the sky, and stood silent before singing O Canada.
“At that moment when the balloons were released, it made me tear up instantly,” said organizer Michelle Walker. “It instantly showed why I love being a part of Canada.”
The idea for the show of respect arrived just three days prior, when, while on her way to work, Walker drove past the flags that currently line Highway 11 east of Sylvan Lake as part of Veterans Voices of Canada’s Flags of Remembrance campaign.
Reflecting on an insignificant argument her children had the day before, she felt it would be a good way to teach them about the truly important things in life.
“I saw the flags, and I knew I had to do this for my three kids; I had to show them that there comes a time when you have to unite together and support your country,” she said.
Walker decided on the Oct. 29 date as it marked one week after the shooting in Ottawa that left Cpl. Nathan Cirillo dead.
“The time was very significant, and that’s why I wanted to do it on that exact time,” she said. “A week after he was shot, and we’re still standing strong.”
Given the limited time she had to work with, Walker confesses to not sleeping in the days leading up to the event. All-around co-operation from the entire community, however, ensured her efforts did not go unmerited.
“I think it touched every single person in a way that we can’t understand, because anywhere I went, it wasn’t a question of if they were going to be there, it was a question of what time,” said Walker. “It’s Canada, and at the drop of a finger, we’ll unite together in tragedy.”
Several businesses helped with the setup, cleanup and overall operation of the event. Walker is grateful to everyone who attended or helped in some way, and felt the event successfully fulfilled its purpose.
“Their sacrifice keeps us standing, and that’s what I want everyone to see,” she said. “We’re still standing.”