By JOANNE HAMMOND
Kamloops Heritage Commission
IN NOVEMBER, we will mark 100 years since the armistice that ended the First World War.
In November, we will gather in groups in Riverside Park at the Battle Street Cenotaph and in the Legion.
In November, we will lay down wreaths and hush our children and listen to homilies and crane our necks at military flyovers.
And after that? How will we remember?
The Kamloops Veteran Signs Project, initiated by military historian Jeff Lodge, aims to create memorial street signs, adding a poppy to signs already bearing veteran’s family names. We’re asking for your support to make it happen in 2018.
This year, on the centenary of the end of the Great War, we’re asking the city to honour the sacrifice of those who fell in that war and keep their place in our community’s memory.
Between 1914 and 1918, 650,000 Canadian men and women served, including 2,800 nursing sisters. More than 4,000 Indigenous people enlisted, despite lacking of full rights as Canadians at home. By war’s end, 66,000 Canadians had been killed and more than 172,000 wounded.
This immense contribution changed Canada’s place in the world and stood us up as a nation. Who were the men and women who did that for us? Who fought and supported at Ypres, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele?
That’s what our street signs project aims to answer. One hundred-and-eighty-nine men from the Kamloops area lost their lives in the First World War. By adding poppies to their signs, we want to return these men to their communities.
Eventually, we’d like to see the 93 Kamloops men and women killed in the Second World War to also be honoured with signs, along with the single fatality from Afghanistan.
We must do this because the memories of the dead will fade and our respect and gratitude need to be renewed.
When you drive on Dalgleish, we want you to know about Lt. John Dalgleish, killed in action just 12 days before the end of the First World War. On Wood Street, you’ll think of Lt. Norman Wood, the fallen son of prominent educator Stuart Wood.
And on Lee Street, on Clapperton Road, on Vicars Road and on dozens of other routes in town, we want to bring the memories of these men back with a poppy that reminds us of the real people behind the names.
We want you to remember it wasn’t just the men who sacrificed their lives — it was this whole community. The families left behind. Their descendants. Maybe you?
City of Kamloops staff and council have agreed to the signs. They have created the design and are assisting with identifying which streets are appropriate to re-dedicate. But they won’t spend the money to follow through and erect the signs.
We’re asking the public to donate money to help make this happen. You can fund the project on GoFundMe.com by searching “Kamloops Veterans Street Signs” or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for other options.
If you can’t help with money, your support is just as important. Contact council and tell our elected representatives what you think. Let them know where your hearts and priorities lie. Let them know that $8,400 (the amount needed for this year’s First World War signs) is not too much to pay in memory of the dead.
Think of it this way. When those 189 men were killed, the city’s population was about 4,000. That’s the equivalent of 4,250 Kamloopsians today, based on our current population of 90,000. Imagine if 4,250 of us were killed for our country and we decided that honouring that sacrifice cost too much?
Heritage is a choice. It’s what we choose to bring with us from the past. It’s the people and places and events that have shaped us, which carry our values and tell our stories.
As a community, it’s up to us to speak for the past, then reach back and bring these memories along with us into the future. It’s the promise we made when we sent these people off to war.
Joanne Hammond is a member of the Kamloops Heritage Commission.