Red Rock is joining other communities this Remembrance Day in an innovative nation-wide initiative to honour veterans.
The memorial banner program is brought to Red Rock as a combined effort between Royal Canadian Legion Branch 226, township officials, and the veteran who runs the memorial banner program at a federal level.
Ashley Davis, community development officer for the township of Red Rock, spoke to Dougall Media about how the township got involved with the Memorial Banner Program and some of the thought that went into bringing it all together.
“This is our first kick at the can,” Davis said.
“Sometime toward the end of 2022, I had a resident approach me saying that they had seen a memorial banner program in southern Ontario… and they asked if I could take a look into the program and see if it’s something that the township would be willing to take on as a project. I explored… the logistics behind it, what it would mean for our community to take it on, whether or not it would be something our local legion branch had the administrative capacity to take on.”
“We determined — after speaking with council and the legion — that it would be best for the township to administer the project,” Davis continued. “And then, we would partner with the legion.”
Davis mentioned that the proceeds from the base cost of the program go towards the Leave the Streets Behind program, which is dedicated to eradicating veteran homelessness.
A minimum of $10 from every banner printed and 10 per cent of all sales are donated to the homelessness program.
Additional proceeds on the township’s end are donated to the local legion.
“The township adds on additional fees for administration, installation, shipping... and then a portion of that total cost goes to our local legion branch,” Davis said.
Despite this being the first year that Red Rock has taken part in the Memorial Banner Program, the response from residents of Red Rock has been very positive.
“We had… a pretty good uptake,” Davis said. “When we first started talking about it, we had five people say, ‘yes, we’re doing this.’ And then, when we actually launched the program we had 11 families come forward and say they wanted to purchase banners for a family member.”
Other northern communities are taking part in the program as well — such as Fort Frances, for example — but each municipality and township that participates have banners that are visually unique to their respective communities.
Each community gets a say in how their veterans are memorialized and more than one veteran can be honoured on each banner.
In some communities, Davis observed that some people have memorialized fathers and sons or husbands and wives on the same banner.
“We took a look at some of the other samples that the program had done,” Davis said. “Between our community member who found [the program] and myself, we took bits and pieces of banners that we liked and then that’s what we used for our template.”
Davis noted that the design was a true collaboration.
“We basically pick out the features that we like, we send a list of those features to the Memorial Banner Program, their art team comes back with proofs, and then we adjust back and forth until we find something that we all agree on,” Davis said.
Each family had final approval of the banners.
After promoting the banner project across Red Rock’s social media pages and creating order forms for local families, Davis said it took them a “couple of months” to find the right design but that they managed to produce banners that everyone is “happy” with.
“With ours, we have the arched ‘lest we forget’… the creases in the flags are a bit lighter than they are in other banners that we’ve seen, we’ve gone with a rounded top for our photographs. It’s really custom to each community.”
Davis said that the double-sided, ultraviolet-resistant banners should last the township for years to come.
“With them only being up for a couple of weeks, we should get a few years out of them,” Davis said.
Interest in the program is only continuing to grow.
“Since we did the recognition of the banner program, we’ve had a few people reaching out already saying they’d like to order banners for next year,” Davis said. “We had a couple people who didn’t meet the deadline for this year, so they’re on our list for next year. This is something we would like to continue to offer and, as families come forward saying they would like to purchase a banner, we can set that up.”
“Ideally, I’d like to partner with the school maybe next year and have the students look into the history of some of our veterans in the community and maybe talk to the families and get to hear the stories of some of our veterans.”
In terms of what participation in this program means for families and residents of Red Rock, Davis said that the reaction has been “heartwarming.”
Some residents, she said, even teared-up seeing their banners displayed.
“I’m really hoping that this is an opportunity for others to learn about our residents and former residents,” Davis said.
Other communities, legions, museums, and local organizations are encouraged to get involved in the memorial program by visiting https://memorialbanner.ca/ for more information.
If you are a resident who would like to honour a veteran in Red Rock for next year, you can contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list.
Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SNnewswatch.com