The town of Bradford West Gwillimbury is getting ready to honour its veterans of both war and peacetime service as Remembrance Day approaches.
This week, town staff worked with the Bradford branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to hang Remembrance Day and Veterans banners along the main streets in Bradford.
A total of 55 of the veterans banners – printed on sturdy vinyl, each with the photograph, name and service details of a local veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces or peacekeeping – went up this year.
The only limitation, said the Legion’s Veterans Service Officer, George Neilson, is the number of light standards equipped with the brackets needed to hold the banners.
“We don’t have any poles left,” Neilson said, although there is a push to have the town consider installing additional brackets in Bradford, Bond Head, and in front of the Legion on Back Street.
The Legion would like to see more banners, especially in honour of recent veterans who served in Korea, the Gulf War and Afghanistan, but “for now, we’re just going to have to work with what we have.”
Bradford’s veterans banner program was introduced in 2017 by the Legion and then-president Mike Giovanetti. The program gives families and the community an opportunity to honour the memory of their veterans, or salute living vets, by purchasing a banner to be hung along the main street from mid-October until after Remembrance Day.
The rest of the year, the banners are stored or displayed at the Legion.
“The Legion is all about veterans,” said Neilson, whose role is to assist veterans with everything from housing to assistive devices and accessing government services.
He also has a real understanding of how difficult it can be to ask for help.
“Being military, I can relate to them,” he said, urging, “Just phone. We’d like to make contact with the veterans who need help – and that’s all veterans, not just World War 2, but Korea, Afghanistan… That includes widows of veterans as well.”
To get in touch, veterans or their families can call the Bradford Legion at 905-775-5025, and leave a message for the Neilson. All contacts are confidential.
Neilson also encourages the community to reach out. “Anybody who knows a veteran or knows a widow that needs help, call me,” he said.
The annual poppy campaign raises the funds used by the Legion to support a wide range of programs that serve Veterans, and Neilson had one more request, as he watched town staff hang the last of the Veterans Banners near the Four Corners in Bradford: “Buy a poppy to support us.”
The poppy campaign begins Oct. 27, and while there may not be the usual number of canvassers out in the streets, due to the pandemic, he urged the community to find a poppy box and make a donation and to look up at the banners, now hung along Holland Street, Barrie Street and Simcoe Road, saluting those who have served.
For more information on the Legion, veterans services, and the veterans banner program, click here.