Veterans' banners celebrate locals who served their country
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This year, the Blyth Legion facilitated the creation and erection of 22 banners honouring local veterans. This comes two years after the Brussels Legion started a similar program.
The programs in both villages have been successful. In the first year, Blyth has produced 22 banners and organizer and Blyth Legion Second Vice-President Jim Button expects that number to grow next year. In Brussels, Legion President Jamie Mitchell says the village is up to 17 this year after beginning with just three in 2018.
In 2020, of all years, the banners will serve to honour those who served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice. With Remembrance Day ceremonies not open to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the banners will keep veterans in the minds of locals and visitors alike.
In Blyth, the banners, which sit atop light standards on the main street of the village, were erected last week for the first time, marking a milestone for the Legion.
Button, who spearheaded the initiative earlier this year, worked with Blyth Printing and Stitches with a Twist, both Blyth main street businesses, to produce the banners. In addition to the great local craftsmanship, Button said both businesses looked favourably upon the Legion with a reasonable price for each banner. He also felt good about being able to support two local businesses in the creation of the banners.
The first Blyth banner to be created featured well-known veteran Russell Cook and it was posted as an example in the Stitches with a Twist front window for residents to see.
Button, who drives for OneCare, says he had seen banners celebrating veterans in surrounding communities and felt it should definitely be adopted in Blyth. After taking on a more active role in his local Legion membership as second vice-president, Button asked about the banners and was told that while it had been suggested before, nothing ever came of it.
He said the village’s veterans deserve to be remembered and honoured for all they gave to their community as well as to their country. The conversation began casually last fall, but picked up steam earlier this year.
Blyth Legion President Ric McBurney said the banners will fly in Blyth for the month of November and then be displayed in the Blyth Legion for the rest of the year.
After they went up last week, McBurney said he was impressed with the final product.
“I think they look impressive,” McBurney said, adding that having local merchants to help with the project has been a real blessing. “We’re lucky in Blyth to have Blyth Printing and Stitches with a Twist to have helped us out on this.”
With the banners being up for only a week, McBurney said the Legion is already getting calls from families wanting to have them made ahead of Remembrance Day next year.
“It’s a good way to honour and remember them,” McBurney said of the veterans being honoured on the banners, especially during a year in which no open-to-the-public Remembrance Day ceremony will be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Brussels, Legion representatives followed the lead of Central Huron, which was the first area community to honour its veterans with main street banners. Mitchell said he was approached by a representative of a company that produces the banners and decided to float it to the Branch’s executive, which was in favour of rolling out the program in Brussels.
Mitchell and executive members Sandra Josling and Deb Ross opted to lead the way by example, procuring banners of their own to honour loved ones who served their country and have since passed away.
Mitchell’s banner honours his great uncle who served in the army in World War II. He says that it’s great to honour veterans on Remembrance Day, but members of the community should be really thinking of these men and women the other 364 days of the year as well and this project should help with that.
Both Mitchell and Button say the program has exceeded their expectations and that they’re very pleased with the response they’ve seen.
Mitchell said the banners are really essential to acknowledging and honouring the sacrifice local veterans have made in years past. Remembrance Day, he said, is his favourite day of the year, so it will be hard to not have a service open to members of the public this year, but the banners will reinforce his view that veterans need to be honoured and remembered every day of the year.
Button agrees, saying the banners are a key component in educating residents both young and old about those who served their country from their community and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for a better way of life.
Both Legion representatives hope to continue to expand the banner program in their respective villages, creating more banners and expanding the program in the years to come.