Columbia Valley wartime veterans are being honoured for the third time in 2019 with the colourful Honour Our Veterans Banner Program.
This year, 49 double-sided banners honouring 98 individual Valley veterans who served in the First, Second, or Korean wars, will hang from light poles in downtown Invermere during the month prior to Remembrance Day.
Each banner, featuring the veteran’s name, service record, and photograph, is funded by the veteran’s family. The program is administered through the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 71 in Invermere.
Valley resident and long-time Legion member Elinor Florence proposed the idea after discovering a similar program in Eastern Canada.
“The personal photographs are what make it especially meaningful,” Ms. Florence said. “These young people came forward from all over this Valley, including the two local reserves. They were willing to risk their lives defending our country.”
It was the hard work of Valley volunteers who made the program possible. Sandi Jones of Invermere acted as the primary coordinator for names and photographs.
“Elinor approached me in 2016 and asked if I would join her in bringing the Honour our Veterans program to the Valley. I had no idea how many hundreds of hours we would dedicate to make it a success!” Ms. Jones said. “Every year when the banners are hung I am reminded of how proud I am of all of the men and women from the Valley, including my dad and six other family members, who served.”
Another major contributor is Dee Conklin, owner of Palliser Printing. She volunteered her time to scan photographs and prepare the digital files. She then worked with other printers to get the banners printed, on time and on budget.
“It’s a real honour to be associated with such a worthwhile community program and as former mayor of Radium, it was always one of my highlights to be part of the Remembrance Day Celebrations,” she said.
A guidebook, also prepared by Palliser Printing, contains brief biographies of the veterans pictured on the banners. It’s available from the Legion. For more information, call 250-342-9517 or email email@example.com.
Invermere was one of the first communities in western Canada to get on board, but the banner program continues to spread.
Randy Kwasnicia of Calgary is a part-time resident of Timber Ridge, and after admiring Invermere’s banners he proposed the idea to the Legion in his hometown of Watson, Saskatchewan. The town of about 800 residents hung its first 40 banners this year, with plans to expand next year.
The Fred Light Museum in Battleford, Saskatchewan also hosted the program for the first time this year with a slate of 50 banners.
Ms. Florence worked with both communities to launch their inaugural banner program. She has also written a how-to guide for other communities on her website here: www.elinorflorence.com/blog/veteran-banners.
The local program will continue to expand next year. If anyone wishes to sponsor a banner for a family member, please note that there will be a call for new applications next spring.