The Calgary Poppy Fund and McCann Family Foundation use display to honour deceased veterans

This year, the Calgary Poppy Fund will display the annual Field of Crosses memorial to honour Southern Alberta’s veterans as well as those lost in military service.

The Field of Crosses, funded by The McCann Family Foundation, began in 2009 as an attempt to replicate Flanders Fields. It is located on Memorial Drive, between 3rd Street NW and Centre Street.

Laura Vanderkruk, a member of the committee that organizes the project, says it started after Murray McCann was in Georgia and saw a similar display.

 “(McCann) thought it was just a brilliant idea and said, ‘Oh, why can’t we do something like that in Calgary?’ So he talked to my father and he did all the research and made it happen,” Vanderkruk says. Thousands of crosses line memorial drive to honour those who have fallen in combat.

Photo by Riad Kadri

The event is held from Nov. 1 to Nov. 11 beginning with a flag raised daily at sunrise and then lowered again at sunset.

This year, the display features about 2,800 crosses with names of deceased veterans from Southern Alberta, compared to the original 500 names displayed when the project first began five years ago.

The selection process to add new crosses is based on if the soldier was born or enlisted in southern Alberta. “We decided last year on a criteria because we could go absolutely crazy and find everybody in Alberta but we know that other cities want to take this on and do their own Field of Crosses as well, like Edmonton and Medicine Hat,” Vanderkruk says.

Vanderkruk’s father, George Bittman, was the past chief administrative officer of the Calgary Poppy Fund who originally made the project a reality. The committee that now organizes the event took over after he died in late 2011.Crosses like these show the name and rank each soldier served as.

Photo by Riad Kadri

The first event will honour Korean War veterans and those who died in service. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

Joey Bleviss, chief administrative officer of the Calgary Poppy Fund says it has grown since its inception with many passers by looking to include their loved ones who fought and died in battle.

The names, ranks and year of death are put on the crosses and placed in a row so that those passing by can honour the fallen heroes.

Along with veterans raising a flag every morning, The Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Units will be part of the set up and take down team, as well as attend every morning to pay their respects.

rkadri@cjournal.ca

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