Operation Raise a Flag, Sunnybrook
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.

Share a message of support with our brave Veterans today.

Canada’s Veterans sacrificed so much for our country. Now you can honour them with a personal message to show your gratitude for their service.

Please take a moment to thank the Veterans that call Sunnybrook home, who have sacrificed so much to keep Canada strong and free.

Messages will be shared with Sunnybrook’s Veterans and throughout Sunnybrook’s Veteran’s Centre. The power of your words will show them your care.

Messages of support



 
Our Veterans
Fred Arsenault
Fred Arsenault
Canadian Army, World War II
Fred Arsenault

Receiving mail was always a highlight for Fred. During the war, when serving in Italy and in the Netherlands, he recalls reading letters from his mother at night in the darkness. Years later, back home, he was always the first to eagerly go through the mail, his family recalls.  

His 100th birthday was on the horizon in 2020, and on the night of the Super Bowl, his son Ron posted to social media a photo of his father, dressed in military best, holding a poster introducing himself as a WWII Veteran who would like to receive 100 birthday cards for the momentous centennial on March 6.

In the days and weeks ahead, social media and Canada Post were abuzz with well-wishers from around the world on a mission to salute a decorated Canadian WWII Veteran. It became a story of national pride that was covered by many print, TV, radio and social media outlets and supporters worldwide.

The Canadian Forces in the US shared on social media: “Once, buried alive by an enemy shell. His brothers dug him out. Once, a man standing beside him was shot and killed by a Nazi Sniper. Once, Ortona, Monte Cassino, north through Italy to France. Now, he’d like to hear from you. Please write.”

His regiment with the Canadian Forces brought him a Bren gun to hold again — the type of machine gun Fred had carried during his service in Europe over 75 years ago. He kissed it and teared up when he saw it.

Fred Arsenault on a motorcycle, Bolsward Holland, August 31, 1945

Of particular impact to Fred and his family was all the mail from schoolchildren from around the world. “I believe Dad has given people, particularly the younger generation, a chance to connect, and learn about such a vital part of our history.”

On the eve of his big day, a number of special friends dropped in for a visit, including various military groups such as the Cape Breton Highlanders — the regiment in which Fred served during WWII. Perhaps most telling was a visit from the Consul-General of the Netherlands in Toronto who presented a card and a plaque on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: the words expressed heartfelt thanks to a Canadian soldier who helped to liberate their country 75 years ago, bringing the room to tears.

Father and son and family thanked everyone for the overwhelming response: “It was more than Dad and I could have imagined. His birthday wish is now complete, having received over 90 thousand birthday cards.”

A native of Prince Edward Island, Fred ran a farm for many years after serving in the Army. “I had six cows, three horses and a tractor.”  He married his (now late) wife Yvonne, and together they had two sons, moved to Toronto and raised their family, before eventually returning to PEI upon his retirement.

In the spring of 2019, Fred moved into the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre and was able to experience his first Remembrance Day at the Centre with his fellow Veterans, and observe the sea of flags.

“It feels great [to see the flags]. I feel proud, I feel happiness. It feels good to know [that Canadians appreciate]. I never thought, had no idea at the time [during wartime], it [service] was so important. I’m happy to be a Veteran. That I came back home and was able to [build a wonderful home for all Canadians].”

Clayton (Clay) Hayes
Canadian Merchant Navy, 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.”

Joseph Lariviere thumb
Joseph Lariviere
Canadian Armed Forces
Joseph Lariviere

Joseph enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in the city of Toronto, Ontario and was sworn in on January 5, 1952, three months before his 20th birthday.  He felt it was an honour to serve in order to protect the freedoms of all Canadians and for those overseas who were in jeopardy of losing their freedoms.  He would serve in the Korean War theatre.

Joseph was given orders for basic training, and a week after taking his oath, he reported to Petawawa, Ontario where he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (3Bn RCR).  Basic training was completed on August 8, 1952 and he was assigned the rank of Private, 2nd Class.

On August 21, 1952, Joseph left for Japan where he arrived on September 3, 1952 and was placed on a stand-by list.  He then departed Japan on September 29, 1952 and landed in Korea the next day where he remained on a stand-by list. He returned to Canada on November 1, 1952 to London, Ontario as part of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Joseph was on the battlefield in Korea in late March of 1953 and had rejoined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. On March 25, 1953 he suffered an injury and was taken to a field dressing station by field ambulance.  Once discharged from the dressing station, he was evacuated to an area behind the regimental aid posts.

It was on March 28, 1953 that Joseph was awarded two medals for the service that he rendered: the Korea Medal and the United Nations Service Medal.

On May 5, 1953, Joseph received a field promotion from Private, 2nd Class to Private, 1st Class and on June 28, 1953, Joseph was classified as a qualified driver/operator.  Joseph first learned how to drive while in service in Korea and prior to his enlistment he would simply ride his bicycle everywhere in Toronto.

As of August 31, 1953, Joseph was authorized to return home and was transported to Japan arriving on September 1, 1953.   He spent about two and a half weeks in Japan and departed on September 19, 1953 where he was able to return to Canada on September 28, 1953.  He was able to then take a month’s leave.

Joseph was again assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa at the beginning of December 1953. Joseph was then transferred to the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC Rivers Manitoba) where he successfully completed the parachutist jump course on February 24, 1954 and achieved qualification as a parachutist.

On June 17, 1954, Joseph suffered an injury to his right knee that would have significant impact in his later life.  It was during a training practice with some of his fellow members in service.  He was admitted to the Royal Canadian Army (RCA) Medical Corps hospital and was discharged on June 30.  It took about a month for the knee to heal and have full function again. After healing he was also trained as an Infantry Signaller.

During Joseph’s term of service, he was always thrilled to receive letters from home and would write letters to say hello and share his experiences with his mother and other family members. Altogether, Joseph actively served for a period of three years and was “Honourably Released” on January 6, 1955.

Joseph applied with the Canadian Army Reserves on October 16, 1961 and was accepted based on his former active service with the Canadian Army.  He was classified as a gunner with the 42nd Medium Artillery Regiment, RCA.  Joseph was honourably released on April 10, 1962.

Joseph is of Ojibway heritage and is a member of Nipissing First Nation which has its lands near North Bay, Ontario. As a youth, Joseph learned some of the skills of his peoples, such as fishing and hunting, and being able to traverse the untouched wilderness that was his playground.  He especially loved fishing with his brother and the whole family would enjoy a savory dinner with the fish that they had caught.

After being discharged from active service, Joseph married in 1956 and went on to have five children, five grandchildren, and he also has a great grandchild on the way (as of Sept. 2021).  His working life included a number of different occupations, including a saw operator at a wood manufacturing plant for the production of wooden boxes and pallets, a taxi driver, a salesman, and a courier.

His family is amazed at the training that he received while in the Canadian Armed Forces which served to enrich his life.

Joseph has resided at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre since the spring of 2020.

Sang Woong Lee
Sang Woong Lee
South Korean Army, Served in the Korean War
Sang Woong Lee

Born in 1930, Sang Woong Lee spent most of his life in South Korea raising a family of six, and immigrated to Canada later into his adult life.

He spent many years with the Korean Army, and was deployed for service in the Korean War. He fought in the notable Battle of Incheon. He was specifically involved with the Incheon Landing, also known as Operation Chromite. He was also one of the members of the Army Unit that planted the South Korean flag at the centre of Seoul’s government building after two weeks of fighting. Thus, reclaiming the city and signifying its return to the government on September 29th, 1950. What a momentous moment to be a part of at the young age of 20.

After the war he then carried on in his career as military police. He also spent time in Vietnam and Saudi Arabia fulfilling various other roles. Now at the age of 91 (as of 2021) he resides at the Veterans Centre at Sunnybrook.

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.”

William (Bill) Mogavero
Arkadii Ilyich Novokolsky
Soviet Armed Forces, Served in WWII
Arkadii Ilyich Novokolsky

A graduate of The Moscow Red-Banner Air Force Polytechnic School, Arkadii Novokolski was drafted in the early days of the war.

In the winter of 1940, a young expert in aero- and photographic equipment, Arkadii was commissioned to Belarus with the objective to set up a photo lab of the 314th long-range air reconnaissance brigade of the Western Front that was being hastily formed in Baranovichi.

“Young soldiers, pilots, navigators, new graduates were arriving”, recalls Arkadii, “new equipment was being delivered.”

Despite his age, he can tell stories about every plane, every event, as if it all happened yesterday.

“We received dual-keel, dual-engine BB-22 planes, machine guns in the back and front. After the war I learned that these were the newest Yak-4’s, 650 km/hr top speed. But back then, even I-15 and I-16 fighters could only go up to 300 km/hr. We were working hard to prepare … but ran out of time. Early morning of June 22nd, the Nazis started mass bombings and crossed the border. But our planes didn’t get damaged – our brigade leader, an experienced Veteran of the war in Spain, had an inkling of how events were likely to unfold… and he ordered a drill the night before, ordered machine guns and photo equipment installed on all planes and all of them camouflaged in the woods.”

The Nazis were rapidly advancing, and after conducting an air investigation, the brigade received an order to start moving towards Minsk and further on towards Moscow. But then, suddenly, all equipment and personnel were redirected to Pavlodar.

In this chaos, the photo lab personnel were left behind. Only after a lengthy identity verification, Arkadii was sent back to Moscow where a remote long-range reconnaissance air brigade of the Red Army was based.

Having been made a lead aero-photo equipment technician, the young officer worked on tuning the equipment for night filming and went on reconnaissance flight missions under the enemy’s fire.

For their role in defending Moscow and subsequent counteroffensive, his air brigade was awarded a title of the Guards Unit, and Arkadii himself was awarded a medal. In addition to that, the Chief of Staff of the Airforce presented Arkadii with an engraved watch in recognition of his work in designing an original device that greatly improved the air reconnaissance capabilities of the planes.

Arkadii was sent to study at the N.E. Zhukovski Airforce Academy. He participated in the Victory Parade on the Red Square.

After the war, Novokolski continued his career in aero-photography, at the Artillery Institute of Instrumentation NII-5, and later was transferred to Šiauliai (Lithuania) and assigned to the air-raid brigade. Then in the mid-1950’s, with the start of layoffs to officer staff, Captain Novokolski made a tough decision to leave the army.

Having previously learned the civilian trade, he found a job at that same NII-5 while attending The National Institute for Communications. Upon graduation and for the next 20 some years, he led the research department at the Institute of Electro-photography in Vilnius.

Arkadii has lived in Canada since 1989 and is a member of the Canadian Association of World War II Veterans since its founding. He has been a resident of the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre since April of 2018. This past summer, Arkadii celebrated his 100th birthday.

— Excerpts taken from this article in the Russian Express (Alexander Gershtein)

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe
Royal Canadian Navy
Richard Ratcliffe
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 92 (as of 2020). As a resident in Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre, 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. In 2017, Richard said "We’re 475 of the most privileged people in Canada. We’re treated like royalty every day."

Marion Sawers
Marion Sawers (nee Ritchie)
Canadian Women's Army Corps
Marion Sawers

Born and raised in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, Marion had been teaching in Nova Scotia from 1937-1944 after graduation from Normal College. In 1944, however, Marion decided to sign up with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. She had hoped that she would be assigned overseas, somewhere like London, England. Along with 45 other CWACs, Marion attended basic training at Camp Borden, Ontario.

Since Marion had previously been a teacher, the army made use of her teaching skills giving her the job of instructing CWACs as clerks and clerk stenographers, as well as classes in Canadian Military Law, etc., in Ottawa.

At the cessation of hostilities, Marion was appointed to the Medical Headquarters where she was employed as a statistician on war injuries under Colonel Crawford. She particularly worked on statistics on Canadian prisoners of war with the Japanese, one of whom had been Colonel Crawford himself. A very memorable event from this work was a gathering together of the Japanese prisoners of war who were on their way to Tokyo to partake in the Japanese war crimes trials. Marion and others met them all as a group at the CWAC Sergeant’s Mess. This can best be described as a happy event as these men were survivors, but it was also the most traumatic event that Marion ever attended, knowing these men’s stories.

Marion was demobilized from the military after her time at the Medical Headquarters. Shortly thereafter, she married John Sawers who was in the Canadian Intelligence Corps at the time. John and Marion had 65 years of marriage, lived in four Canadian cities but resided mostly in Ottawa, where they raised their two daughters. They retired to their home in the country near Portland, Ontario, and also enjoyed their time travelling to many countries over the years. John was admitted to Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in the last months of his life, passing away in 2012, and a year later, Marion came to live at Sunnybrook. She still enjoys activities such as Art Therapy and cooking classes, but Marion’s favourite place is out in the lovely garden area at Sunnybrook. Marion is 104 as of September, 2021.

Mel Storrier
Mel Storrier
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
Mel Storrier

Mel Storrier, 99 (as of 2020), 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 31 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.

Jean Vanwart
Jean Vanwart
Canadian Women's Army Corps
Jean Vanwart

Jean joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) in 1943, in Ottawa and didn’t tell her parents because she was afraid they would disapprove. It turns out, when her Dad found out, he was so proud of her that he had her picture put in the local paper in Huntington, Quebec.

“Basic training was where I learned discipline - to march seven or ten miles, to have our army cot stripped, bedding rolled, shoes and buttons shined and to be on parade at 7a.m sharp. I also learned how to assemble and wear gas masks and how to shoot 303 rifles,” says Jean.

After a couple of days' leave to say goodbye to family and friends, she boarded a troop train to Halifax harbour. There were 70 CWAC and thousands of soldiers. They marched up the gang plank and into the beautiful luxury liner – the Aquitania, stripped of all her luxuries.

She carried all of our own equipment – a huge kit bag, a haversack, a regulation purse, and orders as to who we were and what unit we were with. Once on board she realized there was no turning back. They were on our way to the greatest adventure of their lives!

All CWAC personnel were kept in a group with escorts and guards. They were billeted in a huge state room lined with army cots. Because the portholes were covered, they enjoyed the luxury of air-conditioning. The bathroom had showers but the water was sea water and we couldn't get any lather from the soap. Such was army life!

The troop ships travelled in convoy. She’ll never forget the night they had orders to remain in full uniform and to wear our life jackets. “The ship engines were turned off and no one was allowed to make a sound. The silence was deafening. All lights were extinguished. We were terrified,” remembered Jean. “There was an enemy submarine in the vicinity and if it located our convoy, we would be torpedoed and sunk. Many prayers were silently said. Toward dawn, the engines began to hum. The enemy was gone and we continued on our way.”

After seven days at sea, they arrived at Grenock, Scotland and from there travelled by train to Aldershot, England, the oldest army base in history. After a few weeks Jean was allocated to her permanent base which was in in Farnborough, 30 miles south of London.

Planes roared overhead – Spitfires high in the sky and Lancasters flying in formation below them like our migrating geese. Broken formations when the planes were returning from their missions meant some had been lost in action or taken as prisoners of war.

Jean was sent overseas as a Clerk Typist and was placed in the medical surveys unit. Across the street was the transport headquarters where the staff and duty cars travelled all over England. Realizing that she was missing a great opportunity to see the country, she transferred to the driving unit. Driving on the opposite side of the road in blackouts and fog was hazardous but exciting.

Returning to the depot after a back injury, Jean noticed a new driver to the unit – Elgin Vanwart. It was love at first sight. “Little did I know, we would be married for 71 years!!”

“It took a lot of courage to stick it out over there and we couldn't let our emotions get the better of us,” says Jean. “We eventually became accustomed to the steady vibrations of the planes, day and night. One night, we were at a lecture and a bomber came directly over our building. We were paralyzed with fear. Lucky for us, the bomb landed in a field behind us. There were no casualties.”

“During my three years in England, I saw the devastation that war can cause,” Jean shared. “There were rolls of barbed wire everywhere; London was literally full of holes from the continuous bombing. There were miles of cots set up in the subways for those who had lost their homes. The English were very brave and I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to spend time with them.”

After the war, officers arranged it so that Elgin and Jean could come home on the same ship. After they were married in 1946, they started a family – Marion, Sandra and Bill, all of whom have lived rich and interesting lives.

“The heartbeat of the army will always be with us – a part of us. We lived for today because tomorrow was an unwritten script – a dot on the edge of eternity. We were lucky – for all those young men and women who never made it home, our hearts still bleed, but if we could do it all again – we would.”

Both Jean and Elgin have called the Veterans Centre home. Elgin sadly passed away in 2017. Jean is now 102 year of age, as of 2021.

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 over 300 Canadian Veterans of the Second World War, Korean War and the Cold 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 Veterans.

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, 30,000 flags will be planted around the Sunnybrook campus for Remembrance Day as a symbol of honour and appreciation. In addition, this year we will honour the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Veterans in service to Canada by including artwork designed by an Indigenous Artist alongside the Canadian flags.

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 over 300 Canadian Veterans. 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.

Download our Veterans Impact Report to read about the difference your donation makes.

How can I make a donation?

Donate here
Telephone: 1-866-696-2008
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, 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 provided when making a donation 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 reached our volunteer capacity for flag planting on November 10.

How will the flags be planted on Sunnybrook Campus this year?

This year, we are pleased to invite back volunteers from our community, Sunnybrook staff, and a group from the Canadian military to plant the flags to ensure the Veterans are honoured for their service.