Lieutenant Yvonne Melo of Fort Fraser B.C. is among six British Columbians honoured with a Veterans Affairs Commendation for her involvement in organizing local Remembrance Day ceremonies as well as her dedication to the local air cadets.
With few local veterans and Legion members in the Vanderhoof area, Melo’s work is essential to running a successful Remembrance Day ceremony.
Without a representative veterans organization, Vanderhoof has held both indoor and outdoor Remembrance Day ceremonies with between 500 and 1,000 attendees at the ceremonies — all thanks to Melo’s efforts.
Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay presented the awards on March 3.
“The Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation is the highest honour I can bestow and I am extremely grateful for the wide and varying array of volunteer work they’ve undertaken,” MacAulay said.
“These six British Columbians have done tremendous work that is making a difference, all while not expecting to be recognized. And for me, it’s even more important when it’s helping and honouring the folks who’ve served our country.”
Melo couldn’t quite find the words to describe how she felt when she was told about the commendation but she said it was both an “honour and a privilege.”
“It’s important to stop, and pause and think about what Remembrance Day is about. We need to do that — take two minutes of silence just to think about what people gave up for us to be able to have what we have,” Melo said.
“It’s always important that we remember history, whether it’s good or bad. Yeah. And we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. So hopefully we do.”
Melo said she’s “kind of this person that’s doing things in the background hoping nobody notices.” Despite her best efforts she has been noticed for her diligence and dedication.
Vanderhoof Royal Canadian Air Cadets Commanding Officer Captain Brad McRobert described Lt. Melo as an ‘unsung hero’ for all of the work she’s done in the community.
He said active military were passing through Vanderhoof on Remembrance Day one year and expressed how thankful they were to Melo for making it possible to celebrate the occasion.
“Yvonne has been quietly behind the scenes, doing a large degree of the coordination for Remembrance Day ceremonies in Vanderhoof for 19 years prior to COVID,” McRobert said.
“She’s just one of those people that thinks nothing about quietly making things happen. She’s very genuine and very humble about it. She doesn’t do it for any expectation other than that she knows it’s important.”
Melo has been involved with the local air cadet squadron as a parent volunteer, staff volunteer, civilian instructor and then a cadet instructor cadre officer.
As squadron administrator, Melo is routinely involved in planning activities, going above and beyond her responsibilities when it comes to organizing the Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Her numerous volunteer hours include planning the event itinerary, booking musicians, speakers and pastors, liaising with the Fraser Lake Legion to acquire wreaths, confirming attendance of VIPs, booking facilities and equipment, coordinating parade participation by local Canadian Rangers, Royal Canadian Air Cadets, an RCMP escort and ensuring logistics run smoothly.
Melo has also engaged with the Girl Guides of Canada and the local minor hockey association to engage them as active participants in the ceremony as wreath-bearers. She organizes food and refreshments served at the community centre following the ceremony.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation was created in 2001 by Warrant of the Governor General and with the approval of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The commendation consists of a certificate, a lapel pin for civilian wear and a bar for wear with decorations. The design is a gold maple leaf resting on a red poppy— a flower long associated with the sacrifices of war— with the Royal Crown on the top of the pin.
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