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Battleford, Sask. honours 50 veterans including 8 Métis brothers

WATCH ABOVE: Fifty veterans with Saskatchewan connections are being honoured in Battleford.

Banners with the faces of 50 veterans line 22nd Street in Battleford, Sask.

“They probably didn’t get any recognition whatsoever,” said Timothy Popp, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #9 first vice-president.

READ MORE: Century-old tradition brought back to honour war veterans in Saskatchewan

It’s all part of the Honour our Veterans program — an ongoing legacy project that pays tribute to local veterans.

“Some of them died, some of them came home to families or loved ones and had a hard time dealing with issues getting back into civilian life,” Popp explained. “Maybe they thought they were forgotten, but they’re not.”

A photo of Popp’s uncle can be seen hanging right outside the legion.

The banner program is new to the town — initiated by the Fred Light Museum.

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“When you look at them and see my God — they were kids when they went to war,” museum manager Bernadette Leslie said.

Each banner is sponsored by a loved one and also features the veteran’s name and service record.

“When we first heard this was being offered to us and we’d like to accept it — it was unanimous and the overwhelming feeling of yes, this is something that must be done and we’re so proud to do it,” Leslie explained.

READ MORE: Humboldt, Sask. students join No Stone Left Alone remembrance effort

The Ballendine Brothers

Among the 50 veterans are the eight Ballendine brothers from Battleford.

“A whole family basically took a step forward and said ‘we will serve,'” Popp explained.

All of them joined the Canadian Army.

Five of them went overseas.

They all made it back — alive.

“That is unheard of from what I understand,” Popp said.

The eight Ballendine brothers from Battleford.
The eight Ballendine brothers from Battleford. Courtesy: Elinor Florence

“Once in a while you’ll have family members that were killed in action — a son won’t come back, or a daughter,” Leslie said.

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“Like the Halliday’s — they were two brothers that went to war and they didn’t come back.”

The story of the Ballendine’s begins with their father.

John Ballendine Sr. and his brother James were decorated snipers during the First World War.

“It makes me cry because I’m just so proud,” said Michelle Hazzard, granddaughter of the oldest Ballendine brother, Thomas.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan legions continue the fight for veterans, province offering funding

She said seeing her family members being recognized is special.

“I’m so touched that all eight of them are up there,” she said. “They were not honoured after they came back from war — nobody really talked about it.”

Thomas Ballendine’s banner in Battleford.
Thomas Ballendine’s banner in Battleford. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

“I actually went to visit his gravesite one day and that’s when I realized he was a sergeant.”

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Hazzard’s grandfather died when she was 12.

“He got to live with us for a little while after my grandma passed away, so we got pretty close then — pretty cool guy,” she said.

READ MORE: Documentary series shares Saskatchewan veteran stories in schools across Canada

The youngest and only girl among the Ballendine siblings is Doreen Gilles — she died last year.

Leslie lived next door to her for 20 years.

“I met a few of the brothers before they all passed away, but she told me all the different stories and how proud she was of them,” Leslie remembered.

While outside of Battleford the story of the Ballendine’s is mostly unknown, Leslie said it’s important to know.

“Good way to show what the sacrifices one family did — eight sons — gone to war.”

As for the banner program, organizers hope to extend it next year, honouring more veterans.

For now, the photos of these heroes will stay proudly displayed until Nov. 18.