Veterans’ Appreciation Day will feature show of vehicles, military displays, stories

A contingent of military vehicles will be converging on Sylvan Lake to participate in a Veteran’s Appreciation Day

A contingent of military vehicles will be converging on Sylvan Lake to participate in a Veteran’s Appreciation Day at the community centre May 11.

Allan Cameron, executive director of Veterans Voices of Canada, said “it’s going to be a pretty amazing, awesome day” and he’s encouraging residents to attend and participate.

The event provides a chance to talk to veterans about their experiences and show appreciation for what they’ve done.

It’s also a fundraiser for the organization. The goal of the Sylvan Lake based Veterans Voices is to document the stories of veterans on video for historic and educational purposes. Already, Cameron said, they’ve recorded the memories of almost 700 veterans and the number waiting to tell their stories in continuing to grow.

The day kicks off at 11 a.m. with military displays, Veterans’ Corner and a silent auction.

Red Deer Legion Pipe and Drum Band will open the show with a performance. Then Cameron will explain more about the organization and what they’ve been doing.

Black Thunder, two former Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry members, will provide a unique drum performance in the darkened auditorium with just black light used to show their actions.

Another highlight is Master Corporal Paul Franklin who will talk about his experiences in Afghanistan and his inspirational story of survival. Franklin lost both his legs in a suicide bombing in Kandahar in 2006. A medical technician, he trained the eight men in his patrol company and it was their bravery and close teamwork that save the lives of Franklin and two comrades after the attack.

Special presentations are also planned, but Cameron didn’t want to spoil the surprise by announcing them at this time.

He said there will be lots of military displays, both inside the community centre and in the parking lot outside. About 15-20 military vehicles will be shown by members of the Alberta Military Vehicle Preservation Association. They’ll be joined by UN/NATO veterans and their motorcycles, 3rd Canadian Army Veteran motorcycle units from Red Deer and First Special Service Force reenactors.

A ‘best of show’ award will be presented to the most intriguing or interesting vehicle, based on votes by everyone attending.

Veterans from across Alberta will be available at Veterans’ Corner in the auditorium to talk about their stories. Among these are fighter pilots, a bomber pilot and crew and Afghanistan veterans, said Cameron. All veterans attending are asked to wear their full regalia.

The silent auction features some real variety with items suitable for everyone, he said.

Activities will run until 4 p.m. At the end of the day, a flag signed by all the Veterans who attended and a piece of artwork they’ve signed will be auctioned live. “This is going to be a pretty cool collector’s item,” suggested Cameron.

There’s also a barbecue for those who get hungry during the day.