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

Arion Therapeutic Farm works alongside Mamas for Mamas

The farm will be open every day through the holidays

Salvation Army falling short of fundraising goal

The charity has raised 61 per cent of their goal, meaning a shortfall of $313,000.

Kelowna-based KF Aerospace gets WestJet Encore contract

This is KF’s third contract with the award-winning airline family.

Retailers feel impact of generous return policies

Technology data tracking can clamp down on fraudulent abuse

Your morning news in 90: Dec. 18, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Year in review: Public beach access a hot topic for Lake Country residents

Gable Beach was a contentious issue for Lake Country

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

Was there any pop culture this year? Of course there was.

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Price of Alberta oil plummeted so low that Alberta’s Premier said Canada was practically giving it away

Wicked weather, including heavy snow, rainfall, hammers southern B.C.

Environment Canada has posted winter storm warnings for the Coquihalla Highway, Highway 3

Caretaker jailed, must pay back money after stealing $260K from elderly B.C. couple

Antonette Dizon, now 50, had been hired to provide extra care for Henry and Helen Abfalter

Canadians to get low-cost data-only mobile phone plans within 90 days: CRTC

Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide plans as cheap as 250MB for $15

Police have ‘viable suspects’ in B.C. gangster’s 2017 murder

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg was successful in asking a judge to extend the length of time police can hold onto exhibits seized in connection with the homicide.

Man rescued from sinking boat off the coast of Vancouver Island

Mayday call came into Coast Guard saying vessel had taken on water, BC Ferries dispatched to scene

Most Read