15 Wing flag ceremony honours fallen airmen

Justin Crann
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An endeavour by mayor of Vieux-Berquin, France to acquire a new flag to fly above the graves of five Canadian airmen provided the impetus for a flag presentation at Moose Jaw's 15 Wing.

15 Wing Commander Col. Paul Goddard, right, presents a flag to Millie Francoeur of Moose Jaw. Francoeur is a widow of one of five airmen who were honoured in a 15 Wing flag ceremony June 13.

"The mayor of Vieux-Berquin in France has been working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to keep the stones and the place clean and updated," explained Capt. Susan Magill, 15 Wing's public affairs officer. "The flag that's been flying there is quite aged, so he wanted to replace it, but he didn't know the first step to take."

Magill said the man worked through the Juno Centre, a Canadian museum in Normandy, France, and the request trickled down through the Royal Canadian Air Force until it reached 15 Wing.

"That's what started the request for a ceremony," explained Magill, who added that most ceremonies try to find a connection with the community.

In this case, the connection was Millie Francoeur — a Moose Javian who is the widow of one of the five airmen, William Lacey.

The plane, and the airmen, were a part of 419 Squadron, now located in Cold Lake. But the squadron's commanding officer traveled to Moose Jaw to participate in the ceremony and present Francoeur with a flag.

A second flag was presented to Francoeur by Wing Commander Col. Paul Goddard.

One of the flags was collected to be sent to Vieux-Berquin, Magill said.

The ceremony carried extra significance because, "by the time everything was organized and settled, the ceremony actually fell on the anniversary — the 69th anniversary — of the date of that loss," Magill explained.

Magill said the ceremony is another example of 15 Wing's devotion to its history, and the Canadian Forces' dedication to their history as a collective.

"We had our ceremony the Sunday before, where we went out and cleaned up and marked all of the tombstones of fallen Canadian Forces members," Magill said. "But the ones overseas, who never got to come home — we can't care for those graves. The people of those towns have dedicated themselves to do so."

"It's pretty good that, even all of this time afterward, their mayor and townspeople are saying, 'We need to replace this flag, we need to have this in it's proper state,'" she added.

Organizations: Canadian Forces, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Juno Centre

Geographic location: Vieux-Berquin, France, Normandy Cold Lake Moose Jaw

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