Small-town Canadian Legion finding new ways to honour veterans
LONDON, ONT -- With COVID-19 cancelling, or dramatically reducing, Remembrance Day services throughout the region, communities are trying to find ways to pay tribute.
In St. Marys one such tribute is already in place.
Banners, featuring pictures of veterans adorn the entire downtown, alongside dozens of Canadian flags.
The president of the branch 236 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Tom Jenkins, admits the timing is ideal as people look for ways to pay respect while safety physically distancing.
But the banners were not initially a response to COVID-19.
Jenkins says his membership noted similar efforts in the region, most notably Seaforth, and decided to launch a campaign here.
“We’d knew there’d be lots of veterans, and lots of relatives of veterans, who would be proud to display them, so we thought we’d give it go.”
Jenkins says it was quickly apparent there was a problem, as mounting brackets downtown were exhausted quickly.
“We were hoping to fill the 13, and it certainly went way beyond that,” he said.
An understatement as they filled up every bracket in town, even on side streets.
The legion then turned to local merchants who agreed to hang additional banners in windows.
The overwhelming response touches Bim Graham, a legion member, and a proud son.
“That was my father. He served in England and Holland,” Graham told CTV News, as he looked up at his father’s banner on Queen St. East.
Bim Graham and Tom Jenkins, both of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #236 in St. Marys, Ont. stand between a banner in remembrance of Private John F. Massey on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. The banner is one of 55 displayed in in town. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
His father, Joseph Graham, served with Perth Regiment and the Royal Canadian Corp. of Signals during the Second World War.
Joseph Graham’s two brothers, also went overseas, with one dying in combat during the Italian campaign.
They’re all represented directly, and indirectly, on the banners.
Graham admits he was emotional watching them go up this past Friday.
“I was very proud. I was proud of what Tom and i had accomplished, and i was proud of my father and my uncles. I felt pride.”
In the end, Jenkins says 55 banners are displayed.
“We wanted to make sure, we didn’t turn anybody away. If a family wanted their veteran up there, we did it. We are very fortunate we had such a wide range.”
Requests are already being accepted to expand the program further, next year.