BARRHEAD-It has been a longstanding tradition that goes back at least a dozen years.
That is what Barrhead Royal Canadian Legion vice-president Chuck Mortimer said during a break during an Oct. 2 Canadian flag planting session at Barrhead's Field of Honour.
Every year, usually in early October, Barrhead Royal Canadian Legion volunteers, place Canadian flags on the veterans who served with the Canadian Armed Forces — the Army, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the merchant navy and the Royal Canadian RCMP.
Mortimer was joined by his son Ed, Herman and Inga Barkemeyer and Town of Barrhead councillor Shelley Oswald.
"We place 210 flags here at the Field of Honour and the surrounding cemeteries and about another 200 in cemeteries in the County of Barrhead," Mortimer said.
The Anglican Church donated the cemetery in 1925 for the sole purpose of honouring Barrhead's veterans.
Barkemeyer said while the church may have donated the land, much of the other features, such as the fencing and the trees, are the direct result of the returning Second World War veterans donating supplies and their sweat equity.
Mortimer said although the Legion has created a master list and maps detailing where each veteran is buried, it isn't perfect.
"I found two more this morning, and I have gone over the same ground for 10 years," he said, noting they get most of their information from the tombstones themselves. "If we have any doubt that the person might be a veteran, we put a flag."
That being said, he is confident that, at least in the Field of Honour, except for the two new individuals Mortimer found, they have accounted for all the veterans.
Mortimer is also a veteran, having served in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reserves. He is an Anglican minister that also served as the Legion chaplain for 35 years.
Barkemeyer said, originally, they would collect the wreaths from the War Memorial after the Remembrance Day service to adorn the graves.
Regrettably, the wreaths did not hold up over the winter weather, so the Legion decided to make a switch.
"When I was at Beaverlodge, the Legion there would put a poppy on a stick and put it at the grave of every veteran," Mortimer said. "I thought it was a good idea, but I thought a flag would be more noticeable."
Barkemeyer added that unlike the large Alberta and Canadian flags that they receive from the MLA and MP offices, at no charge, the Legion has to buy the smaller versions themselves.
Barkemeyer is a 10-year veteran who served in both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, including a rotation during the Korean War
"But that is the least we can do for our service people," he said, adding the Legion will continue the ritual in some form in forever.