Nelson Star Editor
As November 11 approaches, legions across Canada are preparing to remember all those who lost their lives to protect our freedom.
But as more and more veterans pass away, some legions have found it difficult to keep membership numbers from dwindling.
Bob Walker, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #155 – Greenwood, said membership is “steady” in his area.
“We’ve signed up enough new members to cover people who have died, moved away or quit.” Walker has been president, off and on, for about six years and points out that people don’t have to serve in the military to join the legion.
“It can be anybody, but what they are, is considered affiliates. They don’t have to have any military service at all,” he explained.
According to Walker there are several types of members – regular members who have military or RCMP service, associate members who have close family members who had military service, affiliate voting members which is any Canadian citizen, and affiliate non-voting members, anyone from an allied country that wishes to join.
But it’s not just age that is causing membership to slow down, it’s also attitude.
“A lot of the younger ones (veterans) that come back from Afghanistan and that, don’t want anything to do with the military. And they consider the legion to be part of the military.”
Walker said work is needed to educate people as to what the legion is all about.
“We have to advertise what we’re doing and what we’re here for. They have to realize that basically what a legion is, is a charity. It’s for the town, well, mainly for the veterans but, because there are so few of them, we are for the community too.”
The Greenwood Legion also works with the local school district to help teach the next generation the importance of remembering.
“Next Thursday, we have a ceremony at the high school and all the elementary schools in the area come to that. We do a full Remembrance Day ceremony.”
“It’s actually quite a big deal, it can be emotional,” said Walker.
While most students are far removed from war, Walker said he believes most of them still understand the sacrifices that were made by Canada’s veterans.
“I think most of them have the idea, it’s distant, but it’s there.”
Now 65, Walker joined the legion 35 years ago. He is a veteran of the navy, although he never saw any wartime service.
“I missed going to Vietnam by one ship. One ship went, we were the next one in line … and it was over before we had to go,” he said, adding that it was a good thing.
On Remembrance Day, Walker plans, like most of the 120 members of the Greenwood Legion, to attend one of the two memorial services being offered that day. He said it’s hard to determine how many people attend the event because of the two cenotaphs. One is in the Kettle Valley between Rock Creek and Midway.
“That’s flat out there and November 11 can be cold so a lot of the older people in Greenwood wanted to have a cenotaph in town.”
So a new one was erected in Greenwood, adjacent to city hall. Walker believes 60-70 people attend at each site.
“Everybody who wants to can go to the Legion afterwards.”