April 23rd, 2024

‘Just wear a poppy’: Legion changes focus of campaign

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on October 26, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Poppy committee chair Jeff Alden says the Legion is asking people to wear a poppy to show they remember veterans' sacrifices.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Wear a poppy. That’s the message being promoted by the General Stewart Branch of The Royal Canadian Legion as Remembrance Day nears.

With only about 10 per cent of Canadians donning the poppy in honour of veterans, the Legion wants to see that number rise.

So this year the focus is not on giving donations when taking poppy from a box but rather on wearing the symbol to stand united with Canada’s veterans.

Poppies will be available starting Saturday on Tag Day with youth groups heading into the community that morning offering them to the public while cadets will visit various businesses in the afternoon.

There is no charge for poppies but donations can be made online or at the Legion branch.

Glenn Miller, communications co-chair of the branch, said Wednesday that Legion branches are “the keepers of remembrance. That is one of the main things we want to act on as well as looking after veterans and their families.

“As keepers of remembrance every year we share poppies with the communities – these are always free. Some of the observations that we have observed over the years on Tag Day, a lot of people think they’ve got to pay for a poppy. We always encourage people to take a poppy and wear it,” said Miller.

“As a veteran, honour us by wearing that poppy,” he said.

He said in the past decade he’s noticed at box stores on Tag Day where poppies are available, that fewer than 10 per cent of people come out wearing one.

He said in previous generations people were impacted by war and the poppy meant more to citizens of all ages.

“So we’re encouraging people this year just wear a poppy,” he emphasized.

Hopefully, those low numbers wearing one will be increased throughout the campaign from Saturday through Remembrance Day, he said.

“That’s going to be our measure of success. If at any time we count a hundred people and we’re at 50 or 60 per cent we’re going to be quite happy. But we certainly have to earmark more than 10 per cent. I think that’s only fair in today’s world of instability,” said Miller.

Jeff Alden, chair of the branch poppy committee, said “we’re trying to get as many people to wear a poppy” to remember the sacrifices of the veterans who have served Canada through world wars and other conflicts.

“The poppy campaign typically runs from the end of October to Remembrance Day. We usually try to get as many people to wear a poppy just to show that they remember what sacrifices our veterans made and our veterans are still making. I think people tend to forget that veterans are not First, Second World War, Korean. They’re also yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are creating veterans every day,” said Alden.

They are the military members who train others in countries such as Ukraine and Latvia and are serving on peacekeeping missions throughout the world.

“I think it’s important if people continue to remember these sacrifices” and that contrary to what some may think world wars are not the only conflicts that create veterans.

“The reason why they have the freedoms they have today is not specifically the Second World War and First World War veterans but we have soldiers today that are on the peacekeeping lines keeping this country safe and helping other countries keep safe,” Alden added.

He said it’s important the campaign raises this issue every year and to show support for veteran sacrifices by wearing the poppy.

Funds raised by donation to the poppy campaign serve the needs of veterans in Lethbridge and southern Alberta. The branch has a 12-person committee led by Wayne King who leads interviews with veterans to determine their needs. King said veterans are entitled to benefits and while some may feel they’re doing OK, they do a disservice to their comrades who aren’t by turning down the assistance that the government of Canada owes them as their employer for their service to the country.

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