In Sylvan Lake, a thriving community south of Leduc, an event was created this year by Veteran Voices of Canada (VVC) and its founder Al Cameron, to honor Canadian veterans. The Flags of Remembrance was a proud display of 116 flags, individually sponsored by community groups, commercial entities and the families of Canadian soldiers, past and present.
As a child, Al Cameron was touched by the wartime stories shared by military relatives, and by his grandfather Curly Cameron, a member of the Nova Scotia Highlanders. Before he passed away, Mr. Cameron Senior heard of Al’s idea to create this amazing tribute, and stated that “he liked it very much”. Sadly, he did not get to see the display, but would have been honored to be a part of the ceremony – in name.
On Saturday November 15, a closing ceremony took place. The flags that had been waiving proudly for two weeks on Highway 11 two kilometers outside of Sylvan Lake having been taken down and lovingly folded awaited the official presentation to their sponsors.
The flags had been donated by MPs and MLAs, and the plaques had been designed by a Sylvan Lake entrepreneur; the sponsorships were a fundraiser for VVC’s continued mission to share Canadian war veterans’ stories with the world through audiovisual interviews, shared online.
On the day before the closing ceremony, Al Cameron and a small group of friends and volunteers had gone to that field, and found the area right by the flags, surrounded by a fresh snowfall, was tramped down, attesting to the continuous flow of avid followers who came to read this emotional tribute to their loved ones and other veterans.
The ceremony started at noon at HJ Cody High School. Approaching the school, guests witnessed a truck decorated brightly with a Veterans of Canada wrap. It was a family’s emotional tribute to the late Corporal Zachery McCormack, whose father later shared a touching story of their beloved son’s love and pride of his military service. Two close friends, Zach Mc Cormack and Sergeant George Micoh fallen soldiers, were honored on this day. A bagpiper from Innisfail’s Royal Canadian Legion led the Color Party, composed of military, an RCMP officer and members of Sylvan Lake’s Legion Branch 212.
Mr. Nick Melnechuk, proud WWII veteran and member of the Lacombe Legion Branch 79 was escorted by his Legion president, Susan Churchill and the Branch secretary Kathy Hobbs. This Legion Branch was one of the first sponsors to come forward to support this grand initiative.
A connection to our region is the vice-president of the VVC Organisation Darin Blondheim who has family in Calmar. His lovely wife Karen was a congenial host greeting all guests. Red Deer Squadron #126 Sea Cadets were a part of the event; two trumpet players (the bugle is the ancestor of the trumpet) played familiar wartime tunes. One of the players was Les Vidok, Rena Cameron’s dad, who with his wife Carolyn was a Leduc resident for seventeen years and moved to Sylvan Lake in 1994. The other skillful trumpet player was Ted Gow.
The ceremony was rich in touching moments. Produced by career videographer Al Cameron, videos were played on two large screens: “Keeping Your Memory Alive” was created with the assistance of Jodi Leslie and the song “Angels” by Randi Bolton can be found on iTunes. Now that the 2014 Flags of Remembrance is over, it is easy to understand how four Canadian provinces have expressed an interest in having Veteran Voices of Canada help them set up a similar event to honor our Canadian veterans. This was an amazing and touching tribute, one that this passionate fan of the military would love to see in our community.
Pictured: Veterans Voices of Canada founding CEO Allan Cameron (right) presents a flag to Robin McCormack, who sponsored it in memory of his son, Cpl. Zachery McCormack. Zachery was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009. His father Robin spoke at the Flags of Remembrance closing ceremony at HJ Cody School on Saturday, and noted his appreciation for organizations like Veterans Voices of Canada. Photo by Stuart Fullarton/BLACK PRESS