It's time to thank our veterans for
keeping Canada strong and free.
Messages of Support

Say Thank You to Canada's Veterans

On Remembrance Day, show them how much you care

They stood on guard for thee. Now you can give these brave men and women something in return. On November 11th, you can raise a flag in support of our veterans and make their day.

Honour and give thanks for their sacrifice. Support Operation Raise a Flag today.

Our Veterans
Al Wallace
Al Wallace
Sergeant Air Gunner, Squadron 419, World War II
Al Wallace

No stranger to Sunnybrook or the veterans who call it home, Albert (Al) Wallace will experience his first Remembrance Day at the country's largest veterans’ residence, as one of its own.

This year, at the age of 98, Al came to live at Sunnybrook, joining some of the many friends he's made over his 53 years of service to veterans through his volunteer work with the Red Cross and Sunnybrook; the last 28 years at the latter.

As a volunteer wheelchair escort once a week, Al enjoyed chatting with fellow veterans as he took them to their medical or therapy appointments and back to their room.

" I lost many friends in the war, and so there's nowhere else I'd rather volunteer," he told the National Post in 2016. "I just like the atmosphere here... I like visiting the guys, and I am going to keep it going until I can't keep it up anymore."

Al's first service was to his country, for four years in the military. "I wanted to do my part to help out with the war, to help out Canada."

As a Sergeant Air Gunner with squadron 419 during World War II, Al had flown planes through 10 air operations over Germany when he and his fellow soldiers were shot down. "Five of us got out using our parachutes. Two died," recalls Al.

He was taken prisoner and spent two long years in a German prison camp.

"When the Russians were coming, we were moved out, forced to walk through Germany on foot. On January 30th, we left at midnight. All you could take was on your back; clothing, food for survival. It was winter, and there was snow on the ground; on the road for 14 or 15 days sleeping in barns with nothing. Got to the railroad. Packed us in boxcars and went to another prison camp. It had barrack blocks bunks for us to sleep. No toilets inside. Eight men in a room with bunk beds. Pretty basic living. Played sports to entertain ourselves."

"Being a prisoner of war helped me to survive to 100 (almost). Toughened us up. No conveniences. It wasn't easy. Everything was hard to come by."

When asked what key event stood out to him, he said: "Getting out of there after the war. May 2nd or 3rd, liberated by the British army, flew to England. Took us back to trucks, to the airbase. 25 of us jumped into the aircraft through the hatch."

When Al awakes on November 11th this year, his eyes will come across a sea of Canadian flags dotting the lawn outside his new home. A reminder for him and all Canadians. A tribute to his service and sacrifice.

Clayton (Clay) Hayes
Canadian Merchant Navy, Able Bodied Seaman, World War II

In the fall of 1944, 17 year old Clayton (Clay) Hayes hopped a freight train headed to the West Coast of British Columbia from his home in Brandon, Manitoba and enlisted in the Canadian Merchant Navy. His brother was already serving with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). His father had served with the Merchant Navy (United Kingdom) during World War I (WWI). Stationed in Vancouver, Clay was assigned to the Goldstream Park merchant ship. Merchant ships carried vital cargo to the people affected by the war (food / clothing) as well as much needed military supplies (aircraft, tanks, guns and munitions) and whatever else was required for the war effort.

The Goldstream traveled down the Pacific coast, through the Panama Canal to New York Harbor where it would become part of a convoy of 80 – 90 ships gathering from across the United States and Canada before heading across the Atlantic to England. Because of its vital cargo, the convoy was a prime target for enemy surface raiders and U-boats. Part of Clay’s job as an Able Bodied Seaman was either to man the crow’s nest, on watch for enemy subs and aircraft, or to be at the wheel steering the ship.

Clay recalls that on one trip leaving from Vancouver, they were hit by a severe storm off the coast of California. All hands were on deck, trying to save the lumber secured to the deck with chains. The storm was so bad, they lost all the lumber and a number of crewmen (including a friend of his) were badly injured. The injured were taken to a hospital in San Pedro, California before the Goldstream renewed its trip.

One of the scariest moments came while unloading their cargo at the Surrey Commercial Docks in southeast London. The fleet got hit numerous times by unmanned German planes launched from German occupied France. Although the bombs landed close by, their ship was not hit. Others were and lives were lost. After the war ended in 1945, Clay stayed on for another two to three years to help with the post war rebuilding efforts.

Upon his return home, Clay married Margaret Doyle and together they raised four children (three daughters and a son). Over the course of his working life, Clay owned and operated several small businesses in the Toronto area including one that manufactured menu covers and another that sold industrial latex to art supply stores across Canada and the United States. He retired at the age of 85. Margaret passed away in 2010 at age 82.

When asked about his war experience, Clay is positive. “I’d do it again for sure,” he said. “The whole war experience was very good. I’m very proud of the role that the Merchant Navy played in providing desperately needed equipment, fuel, food and personnel to Europe and around the world.”

Mel Storrier
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

Mel Storrier, 97, is a survivor in every sense of the word. At 66 years of age, while semi-retired and living in Etobicoke, he suffered a severe stroke that would change his life.

The stroke affected the left side of his body, leaving him paralyzed with no range of motion and without the use of one hand. His vision and hearing were also affected. Then, to complicate matters, Mel fell and broke his hip during physiotherapy.

“Staying at home was not possible, recalls his middle son, David, who visits his dad often at the Veterans Centre. “My mother was showing early signs of dementia and was not able to care for Dad. Sunnybrook was the perfect place and it has been his home for the last 29 years.”

Originally from Quebec, Mel was born in Rosemont, the centre-east part of Montreal. In 1939, at the age of 18 and still in high school, he decided to join the army, rather than be conscripted. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals as a motorcycle dispatch rider delivering messages to the front line and signalman sending Morse code messages. In the summer of 1943, Mel and his unit participated in the Invasion of Sicily. Like many veterans, he never spoke openly about the war to his family.

When he returned from the war in 1945, Mel studied at McGill University and graduated with a degree in engineering in 1951. It was there that he met his wife, Teresa “Lee” Eileen, and they were married in Montreal, prior to his graduation. Mel ran several companies during his career as a mining engineer, working mostly in Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.

Mel has approached life with a great deal of determination. A life-long learner, he is a keen reader and frequent visitor to the library at Sunnybrook’s. Keeping his mind and body as active as possible has been important.

Art therapy has also provided both great enjoyment and benefit. Mel always has a new idea and a “can do” spirit. “I’ve always had a little bit of art in me and I’ve just let it grow. It comes naturally to me,” says Mel.

Whether he’s working in the art studio with fused glass or in the photography studio, Mel has shown that there is a great deal to life after a stroke.

Don Stewart
Royal Canadian Navy

In the spring of 1942 and just shy of 17, Don enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Thanks to a phony letter of signed permission from his mother, he made it past the recruiting officer. Despite the fact that his parents were not on board with the idea, he ventured off to sea.

As a junior seaman and gunner, he spent three years on the defensively-equipped merchant ships (DEMS) zigzagging across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans delivering supplies during the Second World War.

"Moving across the Atlantic Ocean, at only eight knots, we were sitting ducks, for the German U-boats," says Don.

Over a period of three years, he saw more than 40 allied ships sink, fortunately he was never hit by a German U-boat or fighter bomber.

In one 1944 convoy, a ship sank with another man named Donald Stewart on board, and Don's parents were notified that their son had died at sea. With no mail delivery, Don did not keep in touch with his parents and so they were unaware of this error.

At the end of the war, he came home unannounced and shocked his father, a policeman who just happened to be at the train station meeting the soldiers returning.

"He usually didn't show much emotion, but that day he hugged me long and hard. I will never forget that feeling – there wasn't much talking," recalls Don.

His focus today as President of the Veterans & Community Residents Council, is to advise hospital administration in a constructive manner on issue related to the welfare of residents living in L-wing and K-wing, Canada's largest veterans care facility.

Back home in British Columbia Don served as Legion Branch President in both Penticton and Kamloops. He has been a proud and active member of the Royal Canadian Legion for sixty-eight years.

Friendships are very important to Don and at the Veterans Centre he keeps busy socially whether it's dinner out in the community, a Legion meeting in Niagara Falls or simply time together with his comrades in the Blythwood Social Club, a pub located onsite for residents and family members to socialize over a beverage.

Originally from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Don is the proud father of eight children, fifteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

WILLIAM (BUBBA) BACON
WILLIAM (BUBBA) BACON
Canadian Armed Forces
WILLIAM (BUBBA) BACON

William (Bubba) Bacon describes his time with the Canadian military during World War II as a million dollar experience. “I wouldn’t have missed it for a million dollars but I wouldn’t want to do it again for a million dollars.”

Bubba was born in Toronto on December 27, 1919, the younger of two children. His father a painter/ decorator and his mother an office cleaner, separated when he was quite young. While he would split his time between living with each of them, he says he was raised 99 per cent of the time by his mother.

In 1940, when he was 20 years old and looking for adventure, he decided to enlist in the Canadian Militia. Promises of posting to Iceland drew him in. When it became obvious that that wasn’t going to happen, he and a few others moved over to the Canadian Scottish Regiment (16 CScotR) with hopes of being posted to Vancouver Island. However, after a brief initial training at Camp Borden north of Toronto, his unit shipped out to Debert, Nova Scotia to continue training before being sent overseas.

The Regiment arrived in Great Britain in August 1941 as part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The next three years were spent in garrison duties, protecting the southern coast of England and training in preparation for the assault landings on Juno Beach in Normandy. On June 6, 1944, members of Bubba’s Unit were among those in the first wave ashore on that fateful day, sustaining heavy casualties. The rest of the battalion, including Bubba, followed in the second wave advancing further inland than any other landing force that day.

Bubba’s time in France came to a sudden halt in Putot-en-Bessin when a grenade he was disarming went off. As he looked down at his right hand as it dangled from his arm, his first thought was, “This is going to break my mother’s heart.”

Back home in Toronto, Bubba studied bookkeeping at a Toronto Business School. He eventually landed a job as an Information Clerk at Toronto City Hall where he worked for the next 30 years. Bubba met and married his wife Margaret, the sister of his best friend, upon his return from active duty. They had two daughters and 2 grandsons.

Bubba became an active member of the Canadian Scottish Association and remained in contact with a number of comrades he met during service. He has travelled back to France to Putot-en-Bessin where his grenade mishap took place for reunions on a number of occasions.

His message to young people today about his time in the military, “I was very happy to do it but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. When you sign those enlistment papers, you are handing over control of your life and from then on, you do what you are told. But if it means serving your country, you do it.”

Donald (Digger) Gorman
Donald (Digger) Gorman
Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR)
Donald (Digger) Gorman

Donald (Digger) Gorman was 20 years old when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) in 1942. He left university half way through his third year to enlist. It was the thing to do, says Don. We were young. Our chums went in. We all did it. It didn’t seem tough at the time.

I was stationed in the North Atlantic, primarily in Halifax, Nova Scotia – part of the Battle of the Saint Lawrence – Anticosta Island. As a member of the RCNVR, our primary role was to protect a block of up to 40 merchant ships that carried cargo to England to supply the war. That made them prime targets for enemy submarines. Our job would be to continually circle around them as they sailed across the ocean to keep the enemy subs from sinking them. When we were on convoy duty, we typically spent 14 days at sea and three days in port. In port, we usually had some drinks, good meals and we could go to the Red Cross and Salvation Army for free warm clothes, cigarettes, cake etc and maybe, before I was married, go out with a girl or two.

During the war there were good times and bad times. The good times had to do with the camaraderie. Like the words from the old song: shipmates stand together, don’t give up the ship. On a ship if someone gets killed or wounded, you have to take their place, you can’t call in a replacement which is why during basic training we had to learn a bit about everything. So when you are at sea, there is a great sense of fellowship and loyalty among the men, I certainly remember that. It’s called esprit de corps. Any Vet will tell you that.

The bad times of course were when you had to drop a depth charge (Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) weapon) on enemy submarines. That would be the worse thing we had to do. Once a ship was down, you didn’t shoot the people in the water, that’s not right. The purpose of a Navy ship is to sink ships, not kill people.

I remember one time when we did sink a sub and the enemy – both dead and alive -- were in the water. We collected the dead, brought them onboard and wrapped them in canvas to be taken back to shore. Survivors were taken prisoner. While onboard, we treated them well and we fed them the same food that we ate. When it was time to go ashore, they offered us one of their hats. It was filled with their gold rings and watches – anything they had of value to give to us in appreciation for how well they were treated. Of course, we all refused.

Don’t forget you could be in the water some day. That was what we were taught, so we always treated those enemy sailors who ended up in the water, the way we would have wanted to be treated if it were us instead of them. I’ll never forget that gesture. They were just young boys like us.

After the war, Don went back to school to complete his third and fourth years. He graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a BSC in Geology. He studied economic geology as a graduate student at the Royal School of Mines in London, England and earned a PhD from the University of Toronto (U of T). Don worked for the U of T for 46 years. In the summer he did contract work for a mining company, focused on economic mineralogy in the northern most regions of Canada and all provinces except PEI. In 2009, he was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

My wife Reta and I got married during the war in 1944 while I was on leave. We were high school sweethearts and celebrated 70 years together. She died in 2014. Our family includes five children (three girls, two boys), ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Throughout my life I’ve always been very active. I loved all sports, played tennis from the age of 12 to 85, skied and played hockey. I wasn’t a bookworm, didn’t let that take over my life, I was a scholar not a bookworm, I always make that distinction.

Don’s busy life continues at Sunnybrook. A resident for four plus years, he’s active on three or four committees and is Vice President of the Residents Council.

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe
Royal Canadian Navy
Richard Ratcliffe

When Richard Ratcliffe left his home in St. Catherines, Ontario to enlist at age 17, he was on a quest for adventure, eventually travelling far from the Royal Canadian Naval College in British Columbia to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Western Pacific, as well as seeing active service during the Korean War.

As a member of the Royal Canadian Navy, Richard participated in daring missions around the world, buoyed by a sense of pride in being able to defend the interests of the United Nations and NATO over the course of a successful military career that spanned roughly 25 years.

He rose through the ranks, serving aboard 12 ships and ultimately as Commander of the famed destroyer the HMCS Qu’Appelle, with a crew of 230. During the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1952, he helped provide anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence, which included escorting an aircraft carrier flying strikes into North Korea.

Following active duty, Richard served another five years with the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve. Subsequently, he worked for the Maritime Council of Premiers in the Nova Scotia government, and as head of the residence at St. Mary’s University. In 1981, he and Mary Patricia, his wife of almost 50 years, established Cumberland County Knitters, a cottage industry that manufactured hand-knit sweaters and fashion accessories.

While Richard’s naval career was filled with drama, one of the highlights of his life took place in 2017 when he soared over Niagara Falls by helicopter with his grandson Joe as part of the Sunnybrook Veterans Grant a Wish, a program made possible by donor support. Viewing Niagara Falls from the air had been a life-long dream of his. "As children, the Falls were always an attraction for us. The ride lasted just 12 minutes, but for me, it was the trip of a lifetime."

His "can do" attitude and leadership abilities still characterize Richard at age 89. As a resident in Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre for roughly two years he’s enjoying sharing stories and memories with his fellow veterans, but he lives very much in the present. In 2017, he was elected president of the Veteran and Community Residents’ Council. What’s more, that year he was also featured on the Toronto Star front page as one of three veteran bearers of the Invictus flag.

Richard’s adventure continues, this time in service of his fellow veterans with whom he shares his youthful spirit and love of life. "The war was exciting, but right now is just as exciting," he exclaims. He is visibly moved when expressing his gratitude to Sunnybrook Veterans Centre for the outstanding care he has received. "We’re 475 of the most privileged people in Canada. We’re treated like royalty every day."

William (Bill) Mogavero
William (Bill) Mogavero
Canadian Armed Forces
William (Bill) Mogavero

Bill was a Gunner in the Korean War.  He enlisted in the army at Chorley Park in Toronto, Ontario in August 1950 when he was 21. He felt it was something he had to do. The Korean War had just begun and both of his brothers had served during WWII.  From Toronto, he went to Petawawa where he was outfitted before shipping out to the Canadian Forces base in Shilo, Manitoba for basic training.

One memory that stands out for Bill is the Canoe River train crash that happened  November 20, 1951. “Our group, 23 officers and 315 men of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) were on route to Fort Lewis, Washington for additional training before being deployed to Korea. The railroad dispatcher had mistakenly put two trains on the same track in the Rocky Mountains near Valemount, British Columbia. Ours an older, wooden train and a more modern steel train – the Transcontinental Flyer met on a curve, neither seeing the other one coming, and hit head on.”

The damage to the older train was severe. Seventeen Canadian soldiers were killed - more casualties than the unit suffered during its first year of fighting in Korea. ““We were all taken back to Banff, Alberta by a train that had a mother engine added to it so the injured, many badly burned by stream, could be treated. The rest of us were re-outfitted. We waited for the track to be repaired and resumed our trip to Washington to complete our training.”

From Seattle, the men got on an American ship and crossed the International Date Line on route to Korea.  “The trip took several days and we arrived either late January or early February 1951. We drove up the front, eventually setting up camp north of the 38th Parallel in enemy territory. As a gunner, my job was to fire a 25-pounder field gun which was mounted and pulled on a trailer.  We’d set up several kilometres behind the frontline troops. We supported the Princess Patricia’s and the Van Doos. The Major, who was also on the frontline, would give orders and radio the coordinates for us to fire. If wrong, he would readjust them and we fired again. This continued until we hit the intended target.

During this time they were deployed on or near Hill 355 so named on military maps because it was 355 metres above sea level.  The Hill was strategically located just north of Seoul and was highly valued because it was the highest ground overlooking the surrounding front lines and supply routes. Bill recalls that they took a severe pounding there as both sides fiercely fought to gain control.

Bill’s 18 month military commitment turned into two years. He returned to Canada on July 27, 1953.   “When they sent replacements, you went home,” he said. Upon his return, his brother bought him a dump truck and he went into the trucking and excavation business during the summer. In the winter, he drove trucks for Texaco, Canada for 15 years delivering furnace oil until they shut down their Canadian operations. He later worked with Canada Post as a driver and letter carrier, and the TTC as a wheel-trans driver. He has 5 boys and 11 grandchildren.

“There’s no need for young people to die. If you see death in the field, it’s not glamorous like the movies. I start thinking of my children and my grandchildren. I don’t want that for them. I’m lucky I came out unscathed, but a lot didn’t. A lot of them bear scars that you’ll never see.”

About Operation raise a flag

Sunnybrook officially opened in 1948 as a war veterans' hospital; a place to care for heroes.

Today, as the largest veterans care facility in the country, in partnership with Veterans Affairs Canada, we are honoured to provide the best cognitive, physical, mental health and stroke care to 475 Canadian veterans of the Second World War and Korean War.

What is the Raise a Flag campaign?

As the largest veterans’ care facility in Canada, we offer long term and complex hospital care for vets from the Second World War and Korean War.

In honour of this Remembrance Day, Operation Raise a Flag will help raise funds in support of the Veterans program at Sunnybrook.

Please consider making a donation in honour of our veterans. With your support, 47,500 flags will be planted around our campus for Remembrance Day as a symbol of honour and appreciation.

Where does my money go?

It is the mission of the Veterans Centre to assist each and every resident to achieve their best possible life experience while they are at Sunnybrook. Your gift will help Sunnybrook Veterans Centre provide the very best cognitive, physical, mental health and stroke care to 475 Canadian veterans of the Second World War and Korean War. We believe our brave veterans deserve nothing less.

By giving today, you help ensure that every veteran we care for spends their time in comfort, benefitting from the best medical equipment and most compassionate care possible.

How can I make a donation?

By clicking the donate now button on this page.
Telephone: 1-866-696-2008
In person: Foundation Office KGW01
Mail in your donation: Sunnybrook Foundation, 2075 Bayview Avenue, KGW01, Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

How much are flags?

Every donation will raise a flag.

Will I receive a tax receipt?

Yes. If you order your flag online, a tax receipt will be issued immediately to the email address provided.

If you order through the mail or in person, a tax receipt will be placed in the mail and received within 10 business days.

Can I purchase a flag for my mother, father, etc.?

Yes, you can. However, the tax receipt will be made out to the individual making the donation.

How long will flags remain on the lawn?

We cannot guarantee the lifespan of these paper flags. Weather permitting, the flags will remain on the lawn throughout Remembrance Day and will be removed the morning of November 13th.

What will happen to the flags after Remembrance Day?

Flags are collected and recycled.

Where are the flags manufactured?

The flags are manufactured in Ontario and purchased from a local retail vendor — The Flag Shop.

Can I dedicate my flag to a particular veteran?

The flags will be planted on the grounds and messages will be combined for the veterans. If there is a specific veteran that you wish to honour, we will do our best to pass the message along to him/her.

Can I keep my flag?

This is not possible as the flags are not personalized and are planted all together.

How can I volunteer?

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Operation Raise a Flag!

We have had an overwhelming response and all positions for this volunteer opportunity have now been filled.