Legion initiative honours local veterans in downtown Brockville, Ont.

Something new has been put on display in downtown Brockville, and it is all about honouring local veterans leading up to Remembrance Day.

Banners honouring those who served are proudly displayed along King Street and up Courthouse Square. 

The idea came about during a veterans’ coffee group at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 96, according to member Wayne McIsaac. 

McIsaac served with the Royal Canadian Navy for more than three decades.

“Donny Bain said, ‘Have you seen the banners that are in various towns around the country, honouring veterans?’, and I said, ‘Yes I have, I’m interested in the project,'” McIsaac recalled. 

“He said, ‘Do you think we could make it work?’ And I said, ‘I can make it work,’ and so that’s how it started,” McIsaac smiled. 

“After a lot of investigating, it took us about three years to get to the point where we have them on the poles in downtown Brockville right now,” he added. 

The Royal Canadian Legion has installed banners along Courthouse Square at the Cenotaph in Brockville, Ont. to remember local veterans leading up to Remembrance Day. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

Along King Street, Melissa Boulton of Downtown Brockville picked out her great-grandfather Pat Cody on one of the banners.

“Just beyond, beyond emotional,” she said. “I’m speechless.”

“(it’s) a huge buzz, lots of people are talking,” she noted. “Walking through the streets and seeing lost family members, lost local citizens and knowing these names it really hit home. The emotion, this sentiment is just unreal.”

While Boulton never met her late great-grandfather, she says the legion has been very influential in her family. 

“I have been an active volunteer since I was 10 years old,” she noted. “It’s hitting close to home for many of our community members, the message, the sentiment is just, it’s real.”

She hopes that in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, it will bring more people downtown to check out the banners and discuss those who served our country over the years. 

The 45 banners went up on Saturday, with other residents walking along King St. on Tuesday praising the initiative.

“I think it’s a great tribute to our men who have given their lives overseas and those who offered their lives,” said Handy Nevers. “It’s all very, very important.”

The Royal Canadian Legion has installed banners along King Street in Brockville, Ont. to remember local veterans leading up to Remembrance Day. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

McIsaac expects the number of banners to grow next year, thanks to the feedback he has already received.

“I’m expecting probably 145 next year, maybe more because of the traffic I’m getting both at home on emails and here at the office,” he said. “They just think it’s absolutely wonderful. Some of them are struck.”

“I was talking to Melissa today who had looked up and seen her great-grandfather on the pole and she was in tears,” McIsaac added. 

McIsaac said he wanted banners to say ‘honour those who served’, as some veterans are still alive and living in the community. 

“There’s a lady here, a member of this branch, and she is a Second World War veteran, Edith MacFarlane.” McIsaac said. “She is celebrating her 100th birthday this year, so as a birthday gift to her we put her and her husband right in front of city hall so all can see and applaud her on her 100th birthday.”

The Royal Canadian Legion banners honouring Edith MacFarlane and her husband Gordon MacFarlane in Brockville. Edith MacFarlane will celebrate her 100th birthday this year. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

While families purchased each banner, McIsaac says the veterans’ group had zero budget for the initiative. 

“Originally I thought it was going to cost about $150 a banner. In some places it’s over $200 a banner, so I was a little leery about that,” he said. “I didn’t want to charge the people in Brockville an exorbitant amount of money for a banner that had to be put up on a pole.”

“Next year the price may be around $100; we want to keep it affordable to everyone.”

Local businesses stepped up to cover printing costs and mounting hardware, including Ketchum Manufacturing, with Hudson Supply Ltd. donating a genie lift for the legion crew to help hang them. 

Tim Allen’s Tree Service has also offered a bucket truck to help take the banners down in mid-November. 

McIsaac said the banners placed around the cenotaph along Courthouse Square include members from four major wars. 

“I’ve taken two banners from WWI vets, two from WW2 vets, two Korean vets and two Afghan vets and put them in the cenotaph to display all of the major conflicts that we’ve been in as veterans,” he added. 

For those looking to have banners made for 2023, forms are available at Legion Branch 96 on Park Street. The legion will start contacting those families next May for the process. 

“I spoke to people at city hall yesterday and to people at the chamber of commerce and they were just applauding what we’ve done for the city of Brockville and for our veterans,” McIsaac said. 

“The people here of Brockville seem to be very proud of what’s happened and I’m very grateful to be a member here of this branch in Brockville and all the generous things they give us veterans,” he added, noting they are looking for sponsors to continue the project in the years ahead. 

“If there’s anybody out there that can help us in that way, we have no budget, so please help us if we can,” he said. “There’s a lot of people interested now that they’ve seen the banners up there.”

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