The crowds lined the streets, the sun shone down, and the spirit of Remembrance Day hit home for those at Quesnel’s Royal Canadian Legion.
“This is what we do. We plan this throughout the year, and we’ve been doing this since the end of the First World War,” said Branch 94 president Doug Carey, once the formal cenotaph proceedings were finished. He said the public goodwill was palpable in what felt like a pivotal year for the Remembrance Day movement.
One factor is, money is tight during Canada’s current economic conditions, yet the poppy campaign showed good signs of fundraising success, although admittedly the sales of the ceremonial wreaths were down this year a little.
Another factor is all the global conflicts grabbing people’s attention, because there are local connections to them, and it brings to the surface all the reasons Quesnel and Canada feel grateful for the peaceful conditions in which we live, while seeing all too vividly how fragile our freedoms are.
The weather certainly played a positive role in attracting so many to take part, and the Legion organizers were especially appreciative of all those who marched in the parade with the cadets, Canadian Rangers, RCMP, fire fighters, search and rescue personnel, ambulance paramedics, Scouts, Guides, and other organizations that underpin today’s peacetime society.
Branch 94’s service officer Ian Campbell remembered Remembrance Day ceremonies at CFB Shiloh that were -35C. The 6C of 2023 was comparatively comfortable.
Growing up, Carey was a “base brat,” meaning the child of a career military member with the Canadian Forces. He joined the Legion “because it has always been important to me.” When he moved to Quesnel in 1973, it was via the pipe and drum band (he plays the drums) that he grew into executive positions. He was groomed for that back then by former Seaforth Highlander drummer Louis Stolarski and D-Day veteran Bill Spears, and now he wants to honour their faith in him by doing his best for the organization that has done so much for him and his community.
He is hoping for and encouraging the modern day veteran to come forward and become part of the Legion’s activities, or even just spend some time with the executive. He is aware of soldiers in the area who were involved in more recent military actions, such as the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, many missions the world over, and non-combat soldiers who were part of national defence in many capacities.
“We don’t see a lot of those folks here,” Carey said, inviting them to make contact. “Ian Campbell made a room downstairs we call the Stand Easy. Vets can come, the coffee pot is there, you can sit and just B.S.”
Quesnel’s Legion organization does everything from outreach to veterans in mental health distress to fundraising for accessibility services, youth initiatives, elders’ needs, and many other community services.
“It’s in our rituals, the things they died for,” said Carey, referring to the many human reasons The Legion strives to cover key public needs, starting with any veteran.
“If they need our assistance, they can be sure that we will help.”
READ MORE: Poppy campaign about to bloom in Quesnel