Remembering: A flag takes a remarkable journey and in full circle comes home

This is the story of a flag that took a remarkable journey.
“If it had eyes and a brain, imagine the stories it could tell!  I was truly astonished, and quite melancholy at the same time, with so many emotions when our flag returned home,” says Port Elgin Legion Branch 340 Comrade Elizabeth Eby.
     (L) Port Elgin Legion Comrade Blair Eby, PO1 Jennifer Murray (Lindhorst) and Legion                                                       Comrade Elizabeth Eby  – for larger view click on image

The journey began several years ago in 2017 when Elizabeth and husband, Blair Eby, former Poppy Fund Chairs with the Port Elgin Legion, learned that a local girl, Jennifer Murray (nee Lindhorst) was serving in a medical MASH unit as part of Operation Impact (OP IMPACT) in Iraq.  After contacting Murray, the Eby(s) set out to arrange a ‘care package’ that would bring memories of home to Murray and her colleagues.

Port Elgin Legion Branch began to collect large packages of the troops’ favourites – Tim Hortons coffee and popcorn and included artwork and letters from local school students. To top it off, they included a huge regulation-sized Canadian flag that was signed by members of the Legion and many residents throughout the community.

According to Murray, when the flag was received it was hung in the Canadian facility for the duration of their deployment.

   Canadians in Iraq received their care package – for larger view, Click on Image


PO1 Jennifer Murray with parents- for larger view, click on image

“Deployments overseas are generally the most rewarding experiences a military member can participate in. It is the opportunity to utilize the skills and knowledge that we spend a large amount of time training for and often involves opportunities to assist populations all over the world affected by wars, poverty or disasters,” says Murray.  “Deployments are often the pinnacle of one’s military service.  However, the time away from home and distance from family and friends can still be hard to overcome and maintain a positive spirit daily. Receiving these care packages from the Legion, with notes from the local children and recognizing signatures on the flag from your hometown was enough to lift spirits back up.  Personally, it wasn’t until I had moved away from our small town of Port Elgin that I realized how special it is.  The support from this community, including members of the Legion, schools and businesses, is not something that everyone is fortunate enough to have.  The sense of community in this town from those you may have known your whole life or those who you are just introduced to is something truly special.”

When the majority of Canadian personnel moved out of Iraq however, the special flag was left behind in storage at Camp Erable in Erbil, Iraq.

In the following years, more care packages were organized by the Legion branch and sent to multiple personnel on the next few rotations of deployed Canadian troops in various units in Iraq, Mali and Latvia.

When areas of Camp Erable were in the process of being ‘mothballed’ in post-19, Captain Arron Oberman, of 39 Canadian Brigade Group who was there, discovered a large flag with multiple signatures on it in a storage locker.  Among the many signatures were those of Port Elgin Legion members and Saugeen Shore Firefighters (SSFD).

In a recent letter to Port Elgin Legion branch, Captain Oberman said that he “didn’t want the flag to get lost in time”, so he packed it up on his way out of Camp Erable and brought it back to Canada in 2020.  As circumstance would have it however, on his return some of his ‘kit’ was misplaced, including the special flag.

However, they say that what goes around comes around and, this year (2022), Captain Oberman’s misplaced kit and the special flag were recovered.

Oberman set about tracking the flag’s origin in an attempt to return it to its rightful home.

In his letter of September, 2022, Captain Oberman added that, “I can now complete my self-assigned task of returning this fantastic piece of history to your Legion … I am pleased that it has now made its way back to you as a momento of your patriotic support to our troops stationed in Camp Erable during OP IMPACT.”

“Reading Captain Oberman’s letter and speaking on the phone with him gave me pause for deep reflection on how important our Port Elgin Legion and Community project really was,” adds Comrade Elizabeth Eby.  “Remembering our brave men and women in our Canadian Forces serving at home and across the world is not just important, it’s everything, to them and their families.  It’s been an honour for Blair and I to be part of this piece of history.”

After several years of travel, the Canadian flag of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #340 and the community of Port Elgin is home.