Pride in stride as veterans approach day honouring them

Sueann Musick
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There will be a certain amount of magic in the air at 11 a.m. Thursday when the church bells toll for local Remembrance Day services across the county, says Zone 6 Commander John Rogers.

“For 364 days of the year, the veterans may be using canes or walking a little slower, but come November 11, the agility of these people changes and they are standing upright and walking straight,” said Rogers. “There is a lot of pride there.”

Rogers said the Royal Canadian Legion branches are well aware that the average age of a veteran is around 85 years old, so they are making some changes to their services that include having chairs at the outdoor services and hosting banquets and other events throughout the week rather than all on one day.

He said the county-wide service held this past weekend is a good example of this because organizers decided to hold the service at local church rather than subject veterans and guests to Mother Nature’s wet and windy weather.

Yet, despite the age of the veterans, the enthusiasm for the service is very much alive with all ages attending the Nov. 11 ceremonies and different events taking place in local schools, said Bill White, president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Stellarton.

“The crowds still come out for the services and the churches are packed,” he said.

Rogers said youth play a big part in honouring Remembrance Day by hosting ceremonies at their schools and inviting the veterans to take part in their events.

“The education level for this day is at a peak right now at the local schools,” he said, adding many local cadet groups and other youth organizations play an active role in many of the services and help with the poppy campaign.

Dennis Chipman, recreation director for the Northumberland Veterans Unit, said the veterans are made to feel like celebrities when they walk into a school gymnasium and the children clap for them.

He said many of the 20 veterans in the local unit look forward to taking part in these ceremonies each year, but there are some who prefer to remember their time in the military with quieter reflections.

“There is definitely mixed feelings,” he said. “There is a real sense of pride by the veterans for serving their country and some are more sombre. They all do it in their own way. All of them have different experiences because they’ve all been different places in the world.”

Poppy Campaign needs volunteers

The Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign is continuing to thrive, but it’s getting more and more difficult to find volunteers to help distribute the red flowers of respect, said Bill White of the Stellarton legion.

“We feel when you are initiated into the legion you should work the poppy campaign,” said White.

He said the same small group of people turn up every year to help run the campaign which involves having volunteers go out to local businesses and collect donations in exchange for a red flower.

“It’s a grind to get it done,” he said, adding some veterans are still taking part in the campaign but the numbers are getting low. He said the legion has used the local cadet groups to help with taking donations and he is grateful for their support.

“We need to get younger people to volunteer and help out,” he said. “A lot of veterans can’t do it anymore.”

Zone 6 Commander John Rogers said the poppy is a symbol, but it also is a fundraiser that gives money back into the local community. He said money raised during the poppy campaign is collected into a public trust and distributed to youth through bursaries and helps out seniors and veterans.

“If it wasn’t for the younger people coming in we’d have a harder time,” he said. “We always need more support from our membership and community with the distribution of the poppies.”

Organizations: Royal Canadian Legion, Northumberland Veterans Unit

Geographic location: Stellarton

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