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Booklet to cover Toronto veterans

TORONTO — Hundreds of banners flying above the streets of Toronto are a daily reminder of the many current and former residents who served their country in wartime and peace.

But it can be difficult to read the names and details accompanying the faces of the servicemen and women featured on the flags.

Members of the veterans committee of the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization hope, with the help of local businesses and others, to rectify that by collecting all of the images and information in one booklet. George Komar, the group’s president, said the idea was suggested by George Wise, one of more than 450 veterans acknowledged through the banners; and Greg Barto, who worked with the late John Watts to establish the banners.

Wise, who served in the Army in the Korean War, said he was spurred by a desire to know more about the other veterans.

“As I drove around town, I could see the banners but I couldn’t see where they served,” he said.

With the blessing of Watts’ widow, Melissa, the two suggested dedicating the booklet to Watts, who died on March 22 following a brief battle with cancer.

Barto noted Watts was a trustee at the local American Legion post when he approached council about posting the banners.

After Watts secured sponsorship from the veterans’ families, he worked with city crews to post them.

“Every week he would go to the city garage and drill holes in the brackets,” said Wise.

Watts asked Barto to apply his computer skills to scanning photos of the veterans and other preparations for the images displayed on the banners.

Plans call for the banner bearing the photo of Watts, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, to appear on the booklet’s cover.

Komar said the coalition would like to print 500 copies and sell them in bundles of 20 to local businesses and others that may then disseminate them to the public, either by selling them or giving them away.

He said the cost is to be determined but will serve only to cover the expense of producing the booklets.

“We’re not looking to make money. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to pay tribute to the veterans on the banners,” Komar said.

He added the coalition also will accept any donations toward the booklets’ cost, with donors and partnering businesses recognized within the booklet’s pages.

Those interested in supporting the project are encouraged to call (740) 317-3947 or (740) 544-6439.

Barto said it’s still possible for people to sponsor a banner in honor or memory of a loved one who served and those who would like them to be included in the booklet should do so in the near future.

Those seeking information about the banners also may call (740) 537-9317.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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