Ponoka Air Cadet Sgt. Nathan Fraser helps set up the flags for the Ponoka Legion Oct. 7 as part of the Veterans Voices of Canada campaign to honour 128,000 fallen soldiers with 128 Canadian Flags. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka Legion hosts flag raising ceremony at Centennial Park

Ceremony a part of the Veterans Voices of Canada campaign

For the last three years the Ponoka Legion has shown strong support for a movement aimed at honouring the 128,000 Canadian soldiers killed or missing in action.

The campaign is hosted by the Veterans Voices of Canada with now 17 communities across the country showing their support. The monument is the hoisting of 128 full sized Canadian Flags and in Ponoka they are at Centennial Park along Highway 2A.

The flag raising was held Oct. 7 and despite a strong, cold wind blowing from the west, attendees kept their spirits warmed by the idea of the flags being raised.

For Ponoka’s Legion, Sgt. At Arms Stan Orlesky said Ponoka was the second community in Alberta to get on board with the program.

The flags turn heads every year they are raised and they stay up until after Remembrance Day. The temporary monument is something that makes Orlesky proud.

“I’m proud that in another week we get to cast a vote for who we want to lead our community and that’s what this is about,” he explained, referring to the Canadians’ freedom to vote.

His hope is to see a younger generation take up this program and in the long term, the Ponoka Legion, to keep the organization’s programs alive.

Pastor Tim Graff read from a recollection of King David. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side — let Israel now say — if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters.”

He then pointed out a somber reminder that many armies have called God to their side. “But I believe that God knows there are no righteous sides in war since all war destroys life.”

“There are no righteous wars, but sometimes war is justified and needed, and men and women give their lives for that cause; that peace may be restored.”

Mayor Rick Bonnett added his pride in seeing the Ponoka Legion taking a leadership role with this monument.

“People salute the fact that Ponoka does this and I salute the Royal Canadian Legion and everyone that volunteers to do this,” said Bonnett.

Representing Ponoka County was Coun. Bryce Liddle who echoed Bonnett’s comments. “You see it and then you reflect on the amount of lives lost that each one of those flags is commemorating,” said Liddle.

Legion president Barb Olsen spoke and she pointed out that in addition to the missing soldiers, the flags are there as a reminder of the 234 RCMP members and Northwest Mounted Police who have died in the line of duty.

Before the flag raising, the Last Post was played followed by a moment of silence.

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For the third year in a row the Ponoka Legion held its special Flags of Remembrance monument in conjunction with the Veterans Voices of Canada. The event was held Oct. 7 at Centennial Park. Here Air Cadet Flt. Sgt. Ryan Behrens helps tie a flag to the fence. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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