Dave Whittier, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion BC-Yukon

REMEMBRANCE DAY

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

As Canadians honour the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the association that’s supported returning veterans for nearly as long is also reflecting on its efforts as cornerstones in communities across B.C.

But with not a single World War I veteran still alive today, an aging population is causing some concern that without new members, the Royal Canadian Legion’s ability to help returning soldiers could be in question.

Dave Whittier, who was the commanding officer in the Canadian Armed Forces’ 39 Signal Regiment, told Black Press Media the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C.-Yukon Command has changed over the years in two ways: its size and members.

At its peak, the Legion was 600,00-strong across the country. Today, that number stands closer to 250,000 with about 45,000 in B.C., Whittier said

About half of those members are aged 65 years old or over.

“There was a time when the Legion was a veterans’ organization and it was from World War I and World War II veterans,” Whittier said. “That has changed over time and we are a veterans’ service organization now that actually welcomes anyone who wants to join the Legion – who believes in what we are doing and wants to be part of that – to step up and help out.”

Primarily funded through the annual poppy campaign, the Legion supports veterans and their families through financial assistance, disability claims, helping access counselling services and supports for those who have more recently served overseas adjust back to everyday life.

Roughly $2.5 million is raised across the province each year.

At the heart of dwindling numbers is a fear that veterans in need will suffer in silence and that integral pieces of history will be lost.

“It’s very much a concern for us,” Whittier said. The provincial headquarters has been offering business-related guidance to local branches to ensure funds are being used adequately to keep the brick and mortar locales running.

But despite decreasing support, Whittier said he’s been struck by how volunteers care so greatly for this country’s veterans.

“We really need to not only stand on the mountain top and shout out that message but make sure that other people have the opportunity to be apart of it,” he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering, becoming a member – or even spending some time with veterans in their community – don’t have to do much more than walk through their Legion’s doors.

“They get to be a part of the continuity of history, and to come into a branch and sit down with folks… really what we’re trying to provide to the veterans is a family they can be apart of and be welcome at. Bringing the young folks in, I think that extra level of excitement, energy and enthusiasm would go a long way in helping to maintain that.”

And in turn, you might get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of hearing a bit of history never shared before.

“It’s important to know we have no more World War I veterans left, so if their stories haven’t been captured they are gone to us now,” Whittier said. “For some of the big moments in our history we are starting to lose those stories so it’s more important now than ever before to be able to reach out to these folks, understand what they went through, capture those stories so we can make sure we don’t go to the same place again.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Candidates illuminate different visions of Port Alice’s future

The candidates were asked if they believed the pulp mill could run again.

VIDEO: Terry Fox Run returns to Port Hardy for the first time since 2016

All told, Port Hardy’s Terry Fox Run raised $2,200.30 with more still coming in.

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Meet the candidates for the North Island-Powell River riding

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we… Continue reading

Port Hardy celebrates Pride Day at Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre

In the evening, FISH TACO: A Seaside Drag performance was held at the Quarterdeck Pub.

Federal election: Meet the North Island candidates

We begin this series on the federal election by asking about their motivation for running.

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Vancouver Island man bikes through B.C. Interior for mental health, addiction awareness

Vancouver Island Resident Mat Fee is approaching the final phase of his cross-Canada bike journey to raise awareness about addiction recovery.

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Boy overdosed on illicit anti-anxiety drug found on Kelowna classroom floor, RCMP say

Noah Mills, 8, ingested a pink powdery substance off his Kelowna classroom floor

BC SPCA investigating after three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Psychiatric assessment ordered for man accused in Salmon Arm church shooting

Lawyer tells court accused was diagnosed with psychosis hours after his arrest

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Winnipeg student, killed in bus crash, remembered as passionate, kind

University of Victoria student Emma Machado, 18, was killed in the bus crash near Bamfield on Friday

Most Read