By Todd Colin Vaughan
Courtesy of the Sylvan Lake News
Veterans Voices Flags of Remembrance held their closing ceremonies on Nov. 19th.
The event, held at Sylvan Lake Alliance Church, capped off a season of remembrance that began on Oct. 1st with the unveiling of 128 Canadian Flags along the side of Hwy. 11 in honour of veterans who have served and sacrificed for their country.
Veterans Voices of Canada is an organization started by Sylvan Lake resident Allan Cameron 10 years ago, that documents the stories of veterans for the preservation of history and also as educational materials that can be used in schools. Flags of Remembrance started three years ago as a way to honour veterans in more ways than Canadians already do.
Flags of Remembrance has spread to nine other communities across Canada, including Cameron’s hometown of Sydney, Nova Scotia. Flags of Remembrance raises money for veterans by selling hero plaques which appear on the flags and are sponsored by local businesses and residents who want to honour a veteran.
“It’s doing amazing things across Canada and we have interest from all over the place,” Cameron said. “It’s amazing to see what’s happening with it and some people say we are starting a movement across Canada. We are quite proud of that.”
One of the individuals who has supported Flags of Remembrance is Don MacIntyre, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. MacIntyre was present at the closing ceremonies and sponsored a Hero Plaque for a veteran of the Korean War.
“This is very important – not just to this constituency but to all Canadians,” MacIntyre said. “Al Cameron and his committee at Veterans Voices have started a movement and I am so thrilled to see it. This is long overdue and I think our veterans need a place to tell their stories.”
To this date, Cameron and Veterans Voices have documented over 1,200 stories from veterans across Canada.
“It takes a lot of people to make happen what we’re doing here and across the country with Flags of Remembrance,” Cameron said. “I have had amazing support from my board, my committee, as well as so many volunteers that have supported the organization.”
The importance of documenting these stories is part of recognizing why Canadians are fortunate today.
“Without our veterans, we wouldn’t be able to be here today enjoying the freedoms that we have. We appreciate everything that you have sacrificed for us and thank you very much for the work you have done,” Cameron said during the closing ceremonies.
One of the veterans present was Cpl. Paul Franklin. Franklin lost both legs serving his country in Afghanistan and is a strong supporter and advocate for Veterans Voices. He shared the importance of continuing to support the Canadian men and women at war.
“When we think of World War II, we almost think of a romanticized version of what happened,” Franklin said. “In reality – dads left and some didn’t come back, dads left and may have come back broken or torn from their families. It was a huge sacrifice for everyone involved.
“That kind of total war isn’t happening but we are still at war as we speak,” he said, adding that he has friends who are currently fighting the Islamic State in Iraq alongside Kurdish forces.
“We are still at risk and we are still fighting the good fight,” Franklin said. “These kinds of tributes are amazing and I love where this is going.”
Cameron added a thank you to all veterans saying, “We appreciate everything that you have sacrificed for us.”
MacIntyre was pleased to see a local initiative catch on throughout Canada.
“It is a really special day. It’s particularly special for Sylvan Lake because this is where it began,” he said. “It is becoming a Canada-wide movement and I hope that all Sylvan Lakers will get behind Al Cameron and Veterans Voices. Let’s help them propel this even farther.”