I have a rare blood disorder and the latest medication has a side effect of making sleeping difficult. Last night I tossed and turned and finally gave up trying to sleep. As most people know when lying awake our minds become very active with some amazing ideas and some not so amazing. Well last night this idea came to mind, not sure if its either amazing or dumb. I was thinking of how the legion was born just after the end of the first World War, 1925 I believe. At that time there were hundreds of small veteran groups throughout the nation, indeed throughout the Empire. They were seeking help for the maimed and sick from that terrible war that was supposed to end all wars. However such small groups had little or no voice, hence the Royal Canadian Legion was born and became the umbrella group for all. The Legion quickly became a powerful voice and governments had to listen. Veterans flocked to join this wonderful organisation who took care of their members. After the end of the second World War a new wave of veterans joined and the legion continued to act on behalf of their members. Legion branches sprung up all over Canada and were quickly recognized by the local populations with a sense of pride and honour.
Fast forward to 2017, Legions are no longer flourishing and membership is declining at an alarming rate, the question is WHY. When I think about this the situation I find it is not so different from 1925. Back then we had all these little groups struggling to fine help. Today we have many splinter groups of veterans breaking away from the Legions.. I’m not sure how many or how large they are, perhaps ANAVETs is the fastest growing. But there are hundreds more, mostly associations like the RCNA, RCAFA, numerous Army regimental units, even a Submarine Assoc East and West. Probably others I’m unaware of, there is even veterans biker clubs. The point is these fine organisations could be invited to join with the Legions. Maybe similar to how it took place back in 1925. I don’t suggest they give up there charters, uniforms or insignias, they could join with the legion for a nominal fee (perhaps $5 or $10) maybe wear a small legion badge to complete the legion connection. Association fees could be increased to offset this. Indeed increasing the association fees might thin out the less desirables that only use their membership as a local watering hole, they provide little or no help within the branches. The new groups could use the legion branches for their meetings/functions instead of renting or maintaining their own meeting rooms.
When we look back say 40/50 years, could anyone one have imagined our leaders wildly merchandizing the sacred POPPY? Today anyone can buy tatty poppy earrings coffee mugs ,umbrellas, pins, for some, one year free memberships, and much more. Why a newly joined associate can even buy a couple of legion service medals at $25 each to wear on his legion uniform. Its as if the leadership is running around in in ever decreasing circles wondering where they are going to end up.. I still see with angry eyes, Tom Eagles in Ottawa, resplendent in his legion uniform plus thirteen medals, white gloves etc. He laid the Legion wreath at the National War Memorial on behalf of all veterans. Yet this associate member is a absolute civilian, has never served a day in his life but the crowds clapped and paid homage!!!
Allow me to use PEI as my example of what might be possible if we all amalgamated. The Island is a small province with approximately eleven active branches here, and one on the Magdalene Islands. To the best of my knowledge there are no Naval Associations, maybe a couple of RCAFA, and perhaps one or two Army associations. I’m not aware of any other local groups. For this reason not much ever happens on PEI beyond Remembrance Day Parades. The Naval reserve hold a Battle of the Atlantic Church service and parade at different points around the province. I usually hear about it the day after in the local newspaper. The RCAFA hold a Battle of Britain service, and like the Atlantic Parade I read about it the next day. Nothing seems to be published or coordinated by the Provincial Command, it seems everybody does their own thing. However if in each district or branch we had a person appointed to announce all Naval-Army and Air force events, more interest and better turn outs could be achieved. In fact this could instill a new interest and energy.
Imagine (still on PEI) if we had a naval co-coordinator here and through similar persons in Nova Scotia a trip to visit a Foreign or Canadian warship was arranged, perhaps a visit to the International Tattoo, the Maritime Museum, HMCS Sackville or some other Naval event. A bus could be arranged for a day trip for a reasonable fee. The same for the Army, maybe a visit to CFB Gagetown, for the Air force guys CFB Shearwater or Greenwood. The possibilities are endless, surely it would create a whole new interest in the struggling legion branches. Has to be better than darts-card or BBQs, Imagine if it was happening all over the country. All this might be possible if the Legion leaders can get their act together. Appoint a committee of Veterans not associates and raise a paper of suggestions and purposes . Then send it across the country to all the branches and independent groups, hold meeting in town halls, legions and club rooms, open the discussion and begin the process. Of course there will be many objections and arguments, I don’t suggest it will be easy, nothing ever is. Surely its better than what is or isn’t being done at the moment.
If we fail to do anything then I would predict the legions will be gone within the next decade, or at best the next two decades. I believe this is a sensible idea, I realize it has lots of holes but I think they can be overcome if we work together. At present most suggestions fall on deaf ears at both Dominion and Provincial Commands, and keep in mind those same ears are mostly associate ears. Legion veteran members write and tell me we have to take the legion back, but the question is how to do that. Many veterans are like me too old to take active rolls, Many veterans are bitter and or angry and many more have just given up in disgust.
Some of you will think that I’m just a dreamer! but remember at the beginning of the blog I told you I couldn’t sleep so this idea was born wide awake. Yeah I know, still a dreamer.
He who dares to dream! and with take I’ll sign off and take another pill.
God Bless and keep reading