The City of Moose Jaw’s Heritage Advisory Committee officially unveiled the inaugural set of veteran banners in downtown Moose Jaw at a special ceremony held Friday outside of city hall.
The ceremony was attended by veterans' family members along with committee members and dignitaries including Premier Scott Moe and Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross. A reception was held in the council chambers following the outdoor ceremony.
Heritage Advisory Committee member Stella Richards, who took the lead on the project, read aloud the names of those featured on the banners, many of whom are Victoria Cross recipients.
The “Veterans Banner Program” was officially launched in March 2023 as part of an effort to recognize Moose Jaw & area community members who have served Canada, while acknowledging the sacrifices they have made.
A total of 24 banners were installed this year and will remain on display in the downtown area until the end of the month. The program has room for a total of 40 banners, with the application process opening up again in the spring.
Each banner features a photo of the service member, along with their name, date served, and sponsoring family or group. The Canadian flag and Union Jack are displayed at the top of the banner along with the phrase "LEST WE FORGET".
"The part that appealed to me the most was that it was a way to honour the gentlemen that served and they were the boots-on-the-ground types," said John Bye, Chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee. "They were the engineers, the repairmen, the sergeants, the corporals, the privates. Some of the bigger figureheads as far as military have recognition through armouries being named or different awards. It definitely brought it to the working man class that did serve in the war."
The majority of the banners unveiled on Friday are from the First and Second World Wars, however Councillor Crystal Froese, who sits on Heritage Advisory Committee, says she expects to see veterans from other wars as well.
She explained the idea for the banners originated from what has been done in other communities.
"My grandfather actually has a banner in his hometown in Nova Scotia," she mentioned. "It's really important to put a face to those that have served and are serving. We can sometimes forget a little bit about what the poppy means and I think by having the faces and the names and some history is just a really good reminder of the privilege that we have today from those who have served and are serving on behalf of Canada."
Mayor Clive Tolley, who served four years in the reserves with the Saskatchewan Dragoons, talked about what it means to see the veterans' faces up and down Main Street.
"I think it reminds us all about the service to country. There are wars going on in several places in the world today. We're fortunate to live in Canada. A place of freedom, where we're at peace and I think seeing their faces reminds us that they served so we could have that peace today."
Ernie Wilson has three family members featured on the downtown banners.
His father David Guy Wilson served overseas in World War II, as did David's two brothers Malcom "Mac" Wilson and Arthur George Wilson. Mac served with the army from 1941 - 1946, while David and George served with the army from 1941 - 1945. All three brothers, who have now passed on, returned home with the Five-Year Medal and Clasp, the Defense Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, and the Italy Star, France & Germany Star and 1939-1945 Star.
"It's a good remembrance of them," remarked Ernie. "It will probably spark a lot of questions from younger generations. Where they came from? What they did? The idea of putting their bio up on the website is an excellent idea."
He was also impressed with the appearance of the banners.
"They look great. We came down Main Street today just to make sure we could see them and they look really good. We're very impressed with them. We're very thankful to the city and the Legion. It was a good idea."
Janie Fries has four family members featured on the banners including her grandfather Donald Joseph Collins and Donald's brothers Edward James Collins, Emmett Francis Collins, and Leo Hugh Collins.
Donald, who served in the army during World War II, was the youngest of eight boys. Edward, Emmett, and Leo all served in the army during the First World War.
"One thing I found in doing some family research is that when we do research, we tend to go straight back to our ancestors, and we forget about people who maybe didn't have any descendants," said Fries. "A lot of the veterans don't have any descendants to remember them. That's true of Edward. He died of the Spanish Flu during the war. He didn't have a family of his own and I just think it's so important that we do remember. We tend to forget that there are relatives out there that didn't have the opportunity to have family who would be searching and remembering them."
Fries noted that Emmett was injured during the war and was prescribed morphine when he returned to Moose Jaw to pursue a career as a lawyer.
"We tend to think of casualty from war but the PTSD and other ramifications from war we sometimes forget about. After World War I, they were discharged and there were no social safety nets like we have today. It's made me think again of mental health and how we have to be taking care of each other."
The banners for all four Collins brothers are grouped together beginning at the corner of Fairford and Main.
Committee members were thrilled with the response that they received from the community.
"There was a wonderful response," said Froese. "We had so many more people come out today than we had anticipated and I think that just goes to show you that people don't forget what Remembrance Day is all about. They don't forget. Even some of these veterans that are on these banners passed away, many, many years ago but they're still held in such high regard and honour by their friends and family. It's a really special moment and it was really quite an honour to be here and to be a part of this with all the friends and families of the people that we see on the banners in downtown Moose Jaw."
You can view all of the banners and corresponding biographies by clicking the link here. The Moose Jaw Public Library also has a display that you can check out.
Below is the list of veterans featured on the first round of banners:
- Keith Anderson
- Mansell Clifton Biden
- Hugh Cairns
- Donald Joseph Collins
- Edward James Collins
- Emmett Francis Collins
- Leo Hugh Collins
- David Vivian Currie
- William Harry Fedyk
- Jack E. Harlton
- John Alexander Irwin
- Ralph Alexander Johnstone
- John Kinloch
- Arthur George Knight
- Thomas Gowan Mckee
- Fred “Pete” Mcwilliams
- William J. Milne
- Gus Sagal
- Members Of The Saskatchewan Dragoons
- Cecil Staples
- Ray Taylor
- A. George Wilson
- David Guy Wilson
- Malcolm “Mac” Wilson
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