Melita honours veterans with patriotic display

The Royal Canadian Legion No. 127 in Melita is showing its pride in the town’s war veterans in a patriotic, eye-catching new display.

Veterans from Melita and the surrounding area who served in the First World War, Second World War and other conflicts are being featured on 73 banners installed on hydro poles throughout the community on Main Street and Townsend Drive.

“It’s absolutely awesome to see,” said Louise Carels, a Melita citizen whose grandfathers fought in the Second World War. “It brings tears to my eyes.”

The small town of just over 1,000 has more than a few war heroes in its history. A monument commemorating soldiers from the area killed in the Boer War — a conflict that was fought between the British Empire and the two Boer Republics over the Empire’s influence in Southern Africa from 1899 to 1902 — the First World War and the Second World War is located on Veterans Way in the town.

The monument features Abraham Wellington Armsden, a trooper who served in the South African Constabulary and was killed on Nov. 8, 1901, in the Boer War, the community’s only loss from that period in history.

Fifty-one people from Melita lost their lives in the First World War, along with 18 in the Second World War. Their names join Armsden’s on the monument.

Donna Jean McNish, president of Melita’s Royal Canadian Legion, said the idea to add banners as an additional way to commemorate war veterans came to members of the legion at a fall supper in Maryfield, Sask., where light poles were adorned with banners featuring veterans last year.

“I went back to our legion executives and asked them if they were interested in doing the project, and they said they definitely were,” McNish said. “It was a project that we wanted to pursue.”

The Legion approached the families of veterans from Melita and the surrounding area, and those who decided to participate paid $250 for the banners to be printed. The Legion also held a few fundraisers and, in addition to donations from local families and businesses, had enough to install the 29.5- by 62.5-inch banners.

The community has given the Legion “lots of positive feedback,” McNish said, adding she has had phone calls from plenty of people in town and from out of town telling her how much they appreciate the display.

“I [heard from] a man from Souris that drove down here with his wife, who hasn’t lived in Melita for probably 60 years but heard about it and has family here. He was quite teary-eyed when he was talking to me on the phone, saying what a great project it was and how he was so proud of us.”

A teacher originally from Melita who now calls Vancouver home also got in touch with McNish to express his admiration of the project, she said.

“He said that he hasn’t lived in Melita for years and years, but how proud he was of the little town that wanted to put up banners and honour the veterans.”

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun