A shared sense of pride and patriotism brought the community of Sylvan Lake together for the annual commemoration of veterans killed and missing in service from the Boer War to current missions. Several community members attended the Flags of Remembrance ceremony, which displayed 128 flags representing 128,000 Canadians lost in action.
“We had a really good turnout considering everything that is happening these days, as far as health regulations and everything goes. So, it turned out really well. We had a lot of Veterans, a lot of first responders that came forward, a lot of community came forward to be a part. The Sept. 11 tributes, our 20th anniversary tributes was accepted really well and it was a good day,” said Al Cameron, Founder of Veterans Voices of Canada and the Flags of Remembrance.
Flags of Remembrance ceremony is conducted by the Veterans Voices of Canada, who recently also started working on a new project that aims to interview 158 Canadian servicemen and women who served in Afghanistan.
Sylvan Lake Mayor Teresa Rilling shared, “What a beautiful day to remember and thank our Veteran’s, First Responders, and RCMP at the Flags of Remembrance Ceremony. A special thank you to Al Cameron, Veteran’s Voices of Canada, and the team of volunteers for such an amazing event. As the flags were unfurled and the music played my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude for each and every person and family who sacrificed and still give for my freedom and those around me. ‘Thank you’ seems so inadequate at moments like that.”
Chance Burles, a veteran who worked in the military for eight years including a few months in Afghanistan, shared his pride to have community members come out and use the opportunity to remember and meet those that have fought for their safety. “We enable lifestyles like this,” said Burles, adding, “I definitely feel a sense of pride in the fact that the community appreciates what we do and we don’t do the job for accolades, we don’t do the job for recognition, but to see the support, that’s everything.”
Bryce Hooper, also a veteran attending the ceremony, said that a lot of faces showed the emotion of what the event was about. “It was really cool to see people that were walking by and didn’t know about the event and ended up participating.
As people were walking by, they were actually intrigued to come out to the event, and then they ended up participating it the flag raising as well,” said Hooper. “It helps me get through the day when I know that there is support like that because there is brothers and sisters out there that are battling both mental and physical problems, and to know that there are people who are willing to come out to a simple event like this shows that there are people that are willing to help Veterans that are actually needed out there.”
Matthew Frisky, a grade five student who was one of the flag bearers at the ceremony, said, “I wanted to honour and remember them. I am proud to be here.” His mother, Michelle Frisky, who was a spectator of the event, said, “I think it was amazing. It was a really nice tribute. I think it is important for people to have a venue to go to, to remember and show their appreciation for the first responders, for the veterans, for everyone.”
An Indigenous Elder, Lynn Jonasson, said that he was attending the event to pay tribute to all veterans, while especially remembering the Indigenous veterans that were lost in service, and who aren’t often given the recognition that they deserve. “Many Indigenous people give up their Treaty in order to serve, and are never recognized for their contribution. But today, we are in reconciliation, so it is part of the healing to be recognized and to be able to bring our staff to the ceremonies to honour those veterans,” said Jonasson. “There are many veterans here on our surrounding reserves that have served, and need that recognition,” he added.
Cameron shared that each flag pole for Flags of Remembrance will have a plaque of honour. “Those are sponsored plaques of honour that people can give tribute to the past and present military or first responder heroes, and we still have many sponsorships available and we will be taking sponsorships up until October 31,” said Cameron. “We would like to have these plaques in place for November 11, for when Remembrance Day comes forth, we would like to have one name of each of those 128 flag poles to commemorate and give honour to our heroes,” he added.
Cameron said that by sponsoring a plaque for the flag poles, Veterans Voices of Canada will be able to help two local veterans through their hardships. He asks anyone interested to sponsor a plaque to reach out to him at Allan Cameron email@example.com.
The well-attended, smoothly running ceremony was brought to an abrupt end after an anonymous threat was called in to RCMP.
“The troubling part of today was having to shut it all down because of a threat from an individual who anonymously called the RCMP stating they were going to run a vehicle through the crowd and cause harm to the people who took their time to attend our ceremonies,” Cameron shared on Facebook.
“This could have gone a totally different way, but I thank the RCMP for acting on this, letting us know in quick time to clear the field of bystanders and participants. This is another reason why our military and first responders are so important and we appreciate them so much,” he concluded.