Five years after Veteran Voices of Canada began its annual Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake, support for the remembrance plaques have been waning.
Al Cameron, founder of Veteran Voices of Canada (VVoC) says the ceremony cannot continue without the support of the community, and sponsorship of the flags.
“This is a fundraiser for Veteran Voices but it is also a community event, and we need the community to be involved to make this successful,” Cameron said.
Flags of Remembrance raises money for VVoC so they can interview and document the stories of Canadian veterans. In recent years, because of a downswing in the number of sponsors for the event, it has become more difficult to get out across the country to record these stories.
On top of the event, which sees 128 Canadian flags flying in locations across the country, it also raises money for a local charity.
Cameron says a local donation can only be made if all the sponsorships have been sold.
“It is so important to give back to our community, but we can only do that if we have all 128 flags sponsored,” he said.
The economy has not been helpful, Cameron says, and since the first year of the event sales of plaques have been on the decline.
Because of this, Cameron says it has been difficult to make a donation to a local charity.
“You look at our event in Sydney, NS, and they were able to make a $9,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club. They were able to do that because they sold all 128 honour plaque sponsorships,” Cameron said.
As of publication, the Sylvan Lake Flags of Remembrance has sold roughly 30 plaques. This includes six plaques which were bought by students at Condor School.
“We can’t wait until August or September for the plaques to sell, it’s almost too late then,” Cameron said, adding the plaques are specially made in Rimbey to list a name of those who sponsored the plaques as well as the name of the soldier, RCMP officer or first responder remembered.
“It is so sad to walk the line and see a barren flag pole.”
A challenge by Condor School was made to encourage other schools in Central Alberta to sponsor plaque, though so far none have answered the call.
Cameron says the challenge is a perfect way to get kids involved in remembering Canadian veterans all year round, not just in November.
“H.J. Cody is always supportive, they volunteer and often sponsor one flag, usually for the unknown soldier, but I haven’t heard from any other school,” Cameron said.
Cameron says he has also received a lot of support from the Town of Sylvan Lake. Much of the work at the ceremony site is down by Town staff, the Town often sponsors a few flags and Council approved a grant last year.
He said the Town has been great, but needs more support from residents and businesses in the area to ensure the Flags of Remembrance and continue for years to come.
“People love it, I know they do because I can see it on social media and so many people have thanked me for it.”
For those interested in sponsoring a plaque but may not know of anyone in their family who was a veteran, first responder or RCMP officer, Cameron says he can help find a name from a Canadian soldier.
“There are 158 Canadian soldiers who were killed in action while in Afghanistan. That right there would cover the 128 plaques in Sylvan Lake,” he said.
Cameron also mentioned there is a corporate sponsorship available to sponsor the ceremony site.