The time for taps to sound through the Merritt air returns once again, as the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 96 gets set to host the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Merritt Civic Centre.
Beginning at 11a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, residents will gather at the cenotaph to pay their respects to those who have fought for our freedom.
“Every year we want to recognize their sacrifice. That’s the biggest reason for holding Remembrance Day, so we don’t forget, we are always reminded, and we stand up for them,” said Arlene Johnston, president of the Merritt Legion.
The ceremony will begin with a colour party march of Legion members to the cenotaph, followed by the singing of O Canada, the reading of In Flanders Fields, and a moment of silence.
The Remembrance Day ceremony is just one of the many community initiatives that the local Legion has its hands in, including everything from food banks, to non-profits, and anybody in need.
But at its core, the Legion is a safe haven for veterans, any Canadian veteran at all.
“Local veterans are not just World War I, they’re not just World War II, they are anybody that’s a veteran today,” said Johnston. “People don’t realize how many wars are going on where Canadian troops are there. We’re all over the world, and we need to remember that, and recognize that.”
Johnston said that as the older generation of Legion members continues to age, it is important to acknowledge those that are veterans in the less traditional sense.
“Our biggest thing with the Legion today is trying to get the new veterans, the younger veterans, to the Legion to know that we can support them here.”
Veterans do not need to be a member to receive support from the Legion, only a regimental number. A service officer, Alphonse L’abbe, is available to confidentially help vets with anything they may need.
“He has been really exceptional at getting in touch with our veterans, and working with them,” said Johnston, who added that L’abbe has been working with around two veterans every month.
“There’s quite a bit of things we can do for veterans, but we need to see them. We can’t help them if they don’t come and see us.”
The services of the Legion are also available to RCMP members, who are also classified as veterans.
Johnston said that the stigma of only those who fought in the world wars being a veteran needs to be erased.
“There’s this thing that Legions are only for World War I, World War II, Korean veterans, that it’s an old people’s club that is going to die once those veterans are gone. But we are trying to change that attitude, and get more people here to let them know that we are here for them.
“We do want to attract younger members, we need younger members to step up. If there’s no executives, there’s no Legion. So I do want people to know that we’re not just veterans, we’re not just Poppy Fund, we’re here to support the community as a whole.”
Aside from the good deeds for others, Johnston added that being part of the Legion is plenty good for one’s soul as well.
“It’s a lot of work, but the group we have is pretty tight. We get along very well. And it isn’t just the work and the camaraderie that we have, but also I think in this world today, giving a little back, you get it back ten-fold. So take a bit of time, and get out there.”
After the Remembrance Day ceremonies, attendees can follow the colour party march to an open house will be held at the Legion headquarters on Quilchena Ave. Veterans and RCMP members will first be invited in, before the invitation opens to the rest of the community.
On Nov. 10, a colour party will also be held at Gillis House at noon for those that may not be able to make it to the cenotaph.