It’s been 75 years since Allied troops pulled off the largest seaborne invasion in history and invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.
And as Canadians look back and honour the immense sacrifices made that day, members of the Royal Canadian Legion say their organization is more important now than ever.
Created by veterans for veterans, Heather Bergstrom, treasurer for the local branch, says the Legion is a nation-wide non-profit organization dedicated to providing services to our vets and the community while continuing to not only act in Remembrance of the Canadian Services, but to also act in service to the country and local communities.
“Our members now include police, firefighters, and first responders,” Bergstrom said. Of Hope’s 250 members, there are probably only about 18 or 20 military veterans, as a majority of First and Second World War vets have passed away due to age.
“All Legions have a general concern for the future (because so many) think the Legion is only for old people and that it’s run by civilians,” Bergstrom continued. “But without the civilians, there’d be no Legion as there aren’t many vets left.”
Which leaves the Royal Canadian Legion as the nation’s history holder. “The Legion understands the importance of honouring past sacrifices and acknowledging the courage of those who served and still serve today,” states the organization on its website. “Through Remembrance Day ceremonies, the Poppy campaign, commemorative activities, youth education programs, and more, the Legion helps Canadians to honour and remember.”
However, Bergstrom says that can only continue if membership at local Legions also continues.
“We were created to assist returning vets and their families,” Bergstrom explained, “but you don’t have to be a vet to join.”
It used to be that you had to be a child or grandchild of military personnel, however, that rule was changed within the last 20 years, and now anyone who can follow the code of conduct can join.
“There are advantages to being a member,” added Ian Williams, who’s been with the Legion for 54 years, and is the current president of the Hope branch.
For $50 per year, members can partake in medical and insurance benefit options, as well as participate in monthly dinners, dance parties, poker games, and more.
“It costs less than a Costco membership and has better benefits,” joked Bergstrom, who’s been a member of the Legion since she was 17. “I joined before I could even get in!” said the 65-year-old.
And through the Legion’s generosity, more than $14,000 was donated to local Hope charities last year alone. But to keep doing that work, Bergstrom and Williams say more members are needed.
“We’re really are all about being here for the community as a whole,” Williams said. “It’s about volunteerism and giving back. We have something going on all the time for everyone.”
“Come out and play with us!” exclaimed Bergstrom joyfully, adding that they’ll be celebrating Legion Week from June 24 -30.
“We’re going to have a free barbecue to raise awareness and membership. It’s not just an old-timer civilians’ club, it can be their club, too,” Bergstrom said. “Come down and join in our fun.”
For anyone who would like to honour D-Day, Williams says members of the Hope Legion will be laying a wreath at the cenotaph at noon on June 6.