Lacombe and Sylvan Lake will once again be joining four communities across the country in raising 128 flags to represent 128,000 Canadians killed and missing in action from the Boer War to current missions on Saturday, September 10. The initiative was started by Al Cameron, Founder of Veterans Voices of Canada back in 2014 with Sylvan Lake as the first location.
“The foundation of Veteran’s Voices of Canada is sitting with veterans, documenting their stories on camera so that our youth and just people, Canadians in general, can understand the sacrifices that our veterans have given to us in the past and that they're giving to us now,” said Cameron.
The Flags of Remembrance remain flying from September 10th until Remembrance Day.
Each flag bears a ‘plaque of honour’ recognizing a local veteran who is living today or in remembrance of one who has passed. Those plaques can be purchased by family members or friends in support of Veterans Voices of Canada and local legions and charities for $250.
“If you've got a family member or a military, past or present, military or first responder hero who's served any in any period. We want to give them honor through a plaque of honor and a flag...What I like to say is that one person is representative of 1,000 souls that that one flagpole or that flag flying represents,” explained Cameron.
Lacombe and Sylvan Lake compete
This year, Cameron who is representing Sylvan Lake and the First Vice President for the Lacombe Legion Branch #79, Joe Sampson are competing to see who will have those 128 veterans first. Last year was the first year that the Flags of Remembrance were raised in Lacombe however, the initiative is a welcomed addition to the city.
“Everybody that we talked to in Lacombe said nothing but positive [things]. The walkway in front of the Pentagon Farm Centre, where the location was last year and is again this year, is a perfect location. There's a beautiful walking park pathway for people to walk along and read the names of the plaques and just soak up seeing all of those flags,” said Sampson.
The funding from the initiative gives the legion a bit of flexibility when it comes to where they will be reinvesting their donations.
“Any money that is brought in goes back into our general revenue fund. With our general revenue fund, we can now assist portions of the Community where we were limited before in the past. Our poppy funds for veterans is very, very succinct as to what we can do with those funds and how we can utilize them. We can support some organizations throughout the community. However, there are a lot of things hinged on that. It has to be somehow supportive of a veteran itself or providing a service to the veterans. With the funds that we raised through the Veterans Voices of Canada and Flags of Remembrance we don't have those limitations,” explained Sampson.
Currently, Lacombe is ahead of the game in plaque sales. Sampson is feeling confident about rallying up even more support from Lacombe residents.
“Well, there's no there's no doubt that Al is going to have a hard time keeping up to Lacombe. Lacombe has stepped up last year tremendously and I expect that they will again this year. I have no doubt that Al and myself we’ll sit and have a beer later on. He's going to be the one buying because his community didn't support as much as Lacombe,” said Sampson.
Since 2014, Veteran’s voices of Canada has donated over $65,000 to other charities across Canada.
Honouring Indigenous veterans
This year’s ceremony in Lacombe will also be honouring Indigenous veterans with a new addition to the ceremony.
“One of the elders is going to put on a smudge ceremony for us as part of reconciliation. It's great to be recognized and we have to realize that out of the 128,000 that have passed, many of them were Aboriginals that were never, ever recognized,” said Sampson.
Sylvan Lake has hosted a smudge ceremony for the past two events and will continue to do so this year.
The Flags of Remembrance will be raised this Saturday, September 10 at both locations in Lacombe and Sylvan Lake starting at 11:00AM. The flags in Lacombe will be located just outside of Pentagon Farm Centre and the flags in Sylvan Lake will be located at Centennial Park along Lakeshore Drive. For more information on Veteran's Voices of Canada click here.