A 25-year Canadian military veteran has taken his love for soldiers and his respect for Remembrance Day to his front yard - and he’s inspiring others to do the same.
Darren Longstaff created a handmade memorial complete with a WWI soldier silhouette, a remembrance cross and poppies. It’s displayed in front of his Gibbons home.
“Everybody decorates for the other holidays, but nobody ever really does for Remembrance Day,” Longstaff said outside of his home Thursday night.
“And as a veteran, I just thought we should do more. And it seems to be taking off,” he said.
Longstaff first erected the memorial five years ago. Since then many people have stopped by to admire it and about a dozen other members of his local veterans group have created similar displays.
“Canadians in general, they do appreciate the military, but I’m thinking there’s probably more that we can do. Things like this helps bring awareness within our community and it’s appreciated,” Longstaff said.
The display has been shared on Facebook, in military groups and in the local newspaper.
Gibbons resident Cathy Ellsworth stopped by Thursday night to take some photos and remember her father.
“My Dad was a war vet in Korea. He did two tours of duty and was in the Second World War and was a POW,” Ellsworth said.
“So (the display) holds a special memory to me. It just gets me emotional. We’re lucky we live where we are. It reminds me of my dad and he’d be really impressed,” she said.
The display is deeply personal for Longstaff as well, and he gets choked up talking about a particular part of it.
“The one on the right with the four rifles is for remembrance of the first four (soldiers) that we lost in Afghanistan during my tour in 2002,” he recalled.
Ellsworth said people around Gibbons do help veterans, but said displays like Longstaff’s are important to help us remember.
“This community is phenomenal. If there’s a veteran in need here, whether it’s through the Legion or just a group of people, they step up,” Ellsworth said, adding she and others have helped provide meals to veterans and widows.
Longstaff, now a paramedic north of the city, said he’ll continue with his display and he had a simple request of Albertans.
“Donate to the Poppy Fund, wear your poppy in remembrance and observe the moment of silence on the 11th,” Longstaff requested.
The display is located at 4704 - 48 Avenue in Gibbons.