By Todd Colin Vaughan
Courtesy of the Sylvan Lake News
A season of remembrance is about to begin again, with Hero Plaque sponsorships beginning for Veterans Voices of Canada Flags of Remembrance.
Flags of Remembrance is a ceremonial national event to honour the heroes that have sacrificed for Canada. It takes place in 16 communities across the country. The event initially began in Sylvan Lake and has since spread across the country, due to the efforts of founding Executive Director of Veterans Voices Al Cameron.
On the first Saturday of every October – Oct. 7th this year – 128 flags on each side of Hwy. 11 are unfurled – with each flag having the name of a veteran inscribed onto it. Each plaque on the flag is up for sponsorship, meaning individuals or groups can honour a veteran of their choosing. The proceeds of the Hero Plaques go to the ongoing efforts of Veterans Voices to document the stories of veterans across Canada, and also to local charities in each location.
This year’s Flags of Remembrance will continue the trend of national growth.
“I have individual and community representatives for Veterans Voices of Canada at each one of those locations,” Cameron said. “I have a new Flags of Remembrance national coordinator, which allows me the time to concentrate on veterans’ interviews, as well as making the Sylvan Lake Veterans Voices of Canada Flags of Remembrance tribute that much better.”
Flags of Remembrance has grown into a national season of remembrance – one which Cameron hopes will continue to grow.
“It has been amazing and at the same time, it has been what I was hoping for,” he said. “The attention that it has garnered across Canada has been unbelievable, and the feedback we have received from all the events has been totally supportive. That was my objective – to extend remembrance all throughout the year. There are other organizations that are helping to do that, but with us – we are doing the best we can.”
Cameron noted that buying a Hero Plaque allows Canadians to honour their veterans individually as well as a whole group.
“If you sponsor a Hero Plaque and flag, it allows you to pay tribute to your veteran hero,” he said. “You would get a sponsorship form and fill it out with all the appropriate information – the name of your hero, who they served with, as well as whether they were KIA (killed in action). The plaques can be in tribute to, or in remembrance of. They can be from any one of the conflicts. If they served and lost their life – we want to pay tribute. If they are still with us – we want to let them know while they are here that we appreciate what they do and pay tribute to them.”
Cameron added the veteran can be part of any Canadian conflict, including the UN peacekeeping missions, the South African Conflict as well as RCMP officers.
Cameron has high hopes for this year’s event, particularly with the weather which didn’t cooperate for the 2016 Sylvan Lake Flags of Remembrance.
“Hopefully the weather will be different,” he said. “I was in Sydney last year for my home town’s Flags of Remembrance. The weather there was sunny, 23 degrees with a light breeze. It wasn’t like that last year, here in Sylvan Lake.”
Cameron promised the ceremonies nationwide will include new ‘wow’ factors for those looking to honour their veterans.
“I don’t want to give too much away because I want people to be surprised,” he said. “I want them to go expecting an amazingly emotional ceremony. There will be a few add-ons that make people say ‘wow.’”
Cameron added that, “If I have anything to do with it, this will turn into a national institution at some point.”
Veterans Voices Flags of Remembrance is looking for support from the community to ensure everything goes according to plan.
“We are looking for volunteers and committee numbers,” he said. “For the day’s events, you can contact us and tell us you are available. We will contact you to verify what you are able to do to help with this amazing event. The last couple years has seen amazing support from the local and surrounding community.”
Anyone looking to sponsor a Hero Plaque, can email Veterans Voices at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The final cutoff date for Hero Plaque sponsorships is Aug. 19th, which allows the organization to ensure all the plaques are in place in time for the opening ceremonies on Oct. 7th. Veterans Voices also accepts corporate sponsorships for those not wanting to purchase a plaque, but would still like to donate to the cause.
Cameron added, “I hope we can sponsor them all. We have 128 on each side. We really want to sponsor them all.”