For the first time, the University of Alberta raised a poppy flag to commemorate Remembrance Day.
The flag was officially raised at the start of November to help raise awareness of the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign and to honour the sacrifices of Canada’s veterans. Located at the entrance to campus by East Campus Village, the flag will fly until November 11 and will be brought down following the conclusion of the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Butterdome.
In a statement, U of A president David Turpin said the flag raising marked an important occasion for the university.
“The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s foremost advocacy and assistance organization for veterans,” Turpin said. “They have also been a partner of the university for the past 70 years. We, as a community, proudly raise this flag as a symbol of support for Canada’s veterans.”
For Tammy Wheeler, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion (Alberta and Northwest Territories Command), the flag raising is a “thrilling” moment in time. Wheeler hopes the flag will continue to fly every year at the U of A.
“It is awesome,” she said. “It is like having the whole university wear a poppy. It was something we have talked about awhile back and never really got around to doing.”
“This year the university graciously accepted to fly it,” she said.
The Royal Canadian Legion has been partners with the university since the 1950s. One of the projects and initiatives run through this is the Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC) which focuses on research for military and veterans health.
Wheeler said the poppy fund uses some money it receives in donations to fund research for veterans and military members health. It began donating towards HiMARC when the program first began in 2011. Over $700,000 has been donated in just the last 10 years alone.
“The flag raising in a way shows our deep connection between two very strong and old organizations,” Wheeler said.
Major Hope Winfield, a military chaplain for the Canadian Armed Forces and current U of A student, is excited and honoured to have the flag fly.
“I think it is so important to have that flag raised,” she said. “The flag really shows support to the veterans who have sacrificed for the freedoms and safety we in Canada enjoy… and those who currently serve.”
Maj. Winfield is currently doing a masters degree in rehabilitative science studying spiritual resiliency and fitness for military members. As a military chaplain she is responsible for aiding members in crisis, spiritual resiliency, pastoral care, and sometimes as simply a person for someone to talk to.
As someone who has deployed to an undisclosed air force base in support of the Canadian Afghanistan mission, Maj. Winfield knows mental health and spiritual resiliency are important for military members in high-stress situations. She hopes to learn as much as she can while at the U of A to aid her ministry after she completes her studies.
“Keeping soldiers operationally fit, supporting their families, and helping veterans is what HiMARC is doing through the assistance it gets from the poppy fund,” she said. “I get to be part of it too. I hope the flag being raised allows for awareness of the poppy fund, and encourages support and donations to it so that efforts like what we are doing [at HiMARC] can continue.”