Placentia Legion staying strong with new members
The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 33, Placentia, is very active in the community. Brenda O’Keefe photo
Royal Canadian Legions throughout the country could boost membership if more people knew that, while there are three specific categories of membership, any Canadian citizen of voting age can join the organization.
“Last year we picked up 12 brand new members who had never joined before... and I believe there are Legions in other areas where people aren’t aware that anyone can join,” said Ian Walsh, who’s been a member of Branch 33, Placentia, for over 35 years.
When the Royal Canadian Legion was formed in 1926, members were restricted to those who had served in Canada’s Armed Forces and Merchant Navy.
According to the national website (www.legion.ca), today’s Legion is one of the largest community service organizations in the country with 360,000 members and approximately 1,500 branches in Canada, the USA and Europe.
Walsh said he’s seen numerous changes with the organization over the years.
The Legion has opened its doors to more people, including soldiers who are now returning from Afghanistan and other war-torn countries.
“You can call it what you like - a theatre, a conflict. If somebody can get close to you and put an end to your life, that’s war. And they are truly veterans who deserve to be recognized as veterans... These veterans have put their lives on the line not only for us at home but for people who are between a rock and a hard place in other countries,” Walsh said.
The Legion was established to look after veterans and their dependents.
The aims and objectives of the organization haven’t changed over the decades, he said. However, the mandate has been broadened where Legion members are more active in the community, supporting numerous worthy causes.
Branch No. 33 is a co-sponsor of the 2558 Placentia Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC). The corps is affiliated with the 1st Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The cadets wear Regiment’s shoulder and beret insignia.
Walsh said the Legion also offers its facilities free-of-charge to other youth groups in the area.
“Every now and then we find out that one of your youth has made a national team and this is a great opportunity for us to offer the Legion for family and friends to host a fundraiser.”
There are about 80 members of Branch No. 33. That’s up from about 60 members several years ago.
Opening membership to all Canadians of voting age has helped boost the numbers, he added.
“Our Legion is quite strong and quite viable. We’ve got a good executive that works well together. We’ve got a beautiful building and things are going well.”
Walsh also pointed out that in order to maintain a successful organization such as a Legion, community support is crucial.
Thankfully, he said, there’s no shortage of that in the Placentia area.
The community helped raised thousands of dollars to replace the Dr. William Collingwood Memorial, in the Placentia town square, that was damaged by a windstorm over four years ago.
“The business community and the individuals within the community have been absolutely fabulous in putting the money together to put the monument back.”
While there have been delays in getting the new monument erected, Walsh said, the funds have been raised for the project.
Veterans Affairs Canada and the provincial government also donated to the cause, he said.
The community also supported the Legion during a ceremony and parade on June 5 when Lance-Cpl. Martin Kent’s medals were repatriated to the Sacred Heart Parish First World War monument in Placentia.
The event honored 33 Placentia men killed during WWI.
Those participating in the parade included not only the Legion but also the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s mounted division, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Regiment Band the RCMP and the local cadets.
In 2010, Walsh said, the playground at St. Anne’s Academy was dedicated in honour of Sgt. Patrick J. Whelan.
The Legion was also involved in a project called the “Three Brothers Lookout” in Ferndale which honours Mike, Tim and Pete Traverse who served in the Second World War.
The playground in Ferndale was renamed “Ferndale Veteran’s Memorial,” during this year’s July 1 memorial service.
Legion members will also remember veterans in the upcoming years with events planned to mark the centennial of the First World War and the 100th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel.
“Everything is coming together quite well. We are really pleased that the Legion is a big part of the community.”