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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nakusp and Westbank First Nation groups meet to discuss regional partnerships

New Nakusp sawmill, restoration of old youth centre were some topics of discussion

Expect delays and one-lane traffic along Highway 33

Repaving is underway along Highway 33 and Big White Road

Kelowna animal rights activist speaks out amid charges in 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Amy Soranno, along with three other activists, will appear in court on Sept. 3

One person taken to hospital following three vehicle crash on Highway 97

Traffic is slow going on Highway 97 at Enterprise Way

UPDATE: Lake Country man reunited with missing parrot

The Senegal parrot escaped from her cage Wednesday evening and was found Friday afternoon

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Two people dead after Highway 1 collision west of Kamloops

Two-vehicle accident closed Trans-Canada Highway for more than five hours

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Shuswap dragon boaters honour teammate’s cancer-fighting accomplishments

Friends Abreast team provides special recognition outside Salmon Arm hospital

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read