At 5 a.m. on a foggy Sunday morning in late October, Doug Grande climbed inside an aerial bucket and was raised some 12 feet or so above the sidewalk to hang a piece of cloth from a Fort Langley light standard.
But this was no simple piece of cloth, as he will attest.
The season supervisor of Cobra Electric, and his crew, were tasked with placing 26 customized Remembrance Day banners, each one sharing the name and photograph of a First World War soldier from Langley who lost his life fighting for this country’s freedom.
“Oh wow. We install for a lot of municipalities. All I’ve seen, mostly, is just a poppy banner. When doing this… it kinda hit us,” Grande said.
Suddenly, the team started Googling the names of each of the soldiers portaited on the banners, and they were “just saddened by the stories and timelines of their service,” said Grande.
What started for the crew as a typical job turned into much more, Grande shared.
“It opened our eyes,” he said. “More importantly, made us remember and continue the discussion.”
Last year, Fort Langley’s Remembrance Day committee introduced the specialized banners to the village thanks to a grant from Veteran Affairs. And since the inception of this program, committee chair Andy Schildhorn said he has been fielding nothing but compliments for the initiative.
“I do get a lot of comments that they’re very special and meaningful because they are so very local,” he explained.
In fact, the response has been so positive, the committee is looking at creating and hanging more such Remembrance banners in future – maybe a series that portrait local soldiers from the Second World War, he said.
There’s room, Schildhorn noted, for about 25 more banners, since the existing tribute banners are currently hung along the main streets and alternated with general Fort Langley banners.
“It brings a bit more realism to Remembrance Day,” Schildhorn said, noting that many people seeing the banners during a walk or drive through the village have no direct knowledge about these soldiers, beyond recognizing a few of the local streets bear their names.
“Too often, we move forward without thinking about our past,” Schildhorn said. “It’s something that’s really reflective of our community roots and of our past… We need to remember. These help.”
Fort Langley isn’t the only area of town where veteran banners are hung, leading up to Remembrance Day.
Eleven years ago now, the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) created 27 distinct Remembrance banners, each featuring a current day (at that time) photograph of a different Langley City veteran.
Then, in 2019, when needing to replace the aging banners, eight additional images of local veterans were added, explained Teri James, DLBA’s executive director.
“People really do appreciate them and what they stand for,” James said. “The banners are a wonderful remembrance about the sacrifices that were made.”
With some duplication of images, there are now 50 banners hung from light posts around the City core.
“Every time they go up in mid-October, other communities contact me to see how this program works, because they want to duplicate it,” James said. She’d like to see more and more communities develop this or other types of tributes that recognize local soldiers/veterans for all they’ve done.
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