Michael McLetchie of the Innisfail Legion Pipe Band plays at the closing ceremony for Veterans Voices of Canada’s Flags of Remembrance tribute at HJ Cody School on Saturday.

Flags of Remembrance tribute comes to a close

The patriotic flag display that adorned a portion of Highway 11 just outside Sylvan Lake for the past several weeks has now been lowered

The patriotic flag display that adorned a portion of Highway 11 just outside Sylvan Lake for the past several weeks has now been lowered, but will return again next year, assures Veterans Voices of Canada (VVOC) founding CEO Allan Cameron.

The 116 ‘Flags of Remembrance’ were raised by VVOC late last month in tribute to Canada’s war dead. A ceremony at HJ Cody school on Saturday marked the official end to the tribute — but only temporarily.

Cameron said the flags will be raised again next year in at least one location, with plans in place to potentially see them relocated to a different community each year. He’s also hoping to see the display erected not only in Alberta, but throughout the entire country.

Until then, VVOC will continue its historical-educational documentation of Canada’s veterans, he said, adding the flag tribute was successful in reminding veterans that they’re appreciated not only on Remembrance Day, but all year-round.

Veterans’ Week activities in Sylvan Lake concluded just several days before Saturday’s ceremony, and saw no shortage of participation. But such strong community support isn’t unusual for Sylvan Lake, said Gordon Graham, first vice president and sergeant-at-arms of the Royal Canadian Legion Sylvan Lake.

“Any Veterans’ Week activities in this town go very well,” he said. “We had great participation with just excellent community support and involvement.”

A luncheon for veterans held at the Legion and the Remembrance Day service at the Multiplex were both well attended. Graham estimates the latter attracted about 1,200 people.

During that service, 92-year-old WWII veteran William Baird was awarded the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour for his role in the liberation of France.

The once-in-a-lifetime presentation was undoubtedly a highlight of the day, Graham feels.

“The presentation was unique in that it was not only 70 years in the making, but it will not again be seen in the lifetimes of those in attendance,” he said.

At the age of 20 in 1942, Baird enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served in Germany, England, Belgium, Holland and France before being honourably discharged in 1946. He joined the Royal Canadian Legion’s Forestburg branch that same year before eventually transferring to the Sylvan Lake branch in 1993.

Baird still participates in and attends Legion activities and events, although declining health has made it increasingly difficult to so recently.

Over the years, he’s volunteered extensively in branch activities, including the Poppy Campaign, which Graham said was a success again this year.

Although final numbers hadn’t been tallied by press time, early indications showed the campaign was on track to either meet or exceed those of last year.

And that’s just one of many positives the Royal Canadian Legion’s Sylvan Lake branch has to move forward with.

Gordon said the branch has recruited a number of new members recently, making numbers the strongest they’ve been in years.

Nonetheless, more members are always needed, he said.

“We’re up at a level that we haven’t been to for the last several years, which is really positive,” he said. “The objective isn’t to recruit people, but it is to encourage people to participate in the Legion and support what the aims and objectives of the Legion are.

“The more people you have, the more you have to participate in these various activities.”

With Veterans’ week having concluded, the Royal Canadian Legion in a media release stated it would now continue its efforts to provide service to Canadian veterans year-round.

 

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