November 11 is the day we remember those who have served, those who have sacrificed, and those who have fought to ensure freedom for future generations. To many people like Steve Rice, President of the Meaford Legion, and Marty Riordan, 1st Vice of the Meaford Legion, remembering is more than a single day on the calendar.
The Royal Canadian Legion is an organization that has supported veterans in important ways since the end of the First World War. It was first incorporated as “The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League” in 1926 through a special Act of Parliament. It wasn’t until the early 1960s after Queen Elizabeth approved the use of ‘Royal’ as a prefix that the organization became known as The Royal Canadian Legion. Now there are over 600 Legions across the country, with more than 400 of them in Ontario alone.
From the beginning, their focus was on supporting veterans.
“Our job at the legion is to promote the legion, and to support them we use money from the poppy funds for all sorts of stuff, the hospital, veterans’ hospitals, bursary funds,” explained Riordan.
Funds are used in a variety of ways, from supplying community medical appliances, medical research, meals-on-wheels, helping veterans and their families in financial need and so much more. The Legion’s focus is always veterans but over the years the organization has morphed into outreach in the community as well.
Meaford Legion, Branch 32, has been serving our community for over 95 years. It has contributed to many local efforts over the years and has supported the Meaford Hospital financially on numerous occasions.
“For me, it’s a passion,” Rice said. “We remember the fallen and the serving and the modern-day veterans. We support those folks for whatever reason they need.”
He’s been a member for nearly 50 years and has been president of the Meaford Legion for 14 years. It’s a small branch with 42 members, many of whom don’t live in the area anymore but maintain membership as it is close to their hearts. Members are needed to keep the Meaford Legion going and you don’t need a military background or to have served to become a member, just a willingness to join and help serve the community and veterans.
The long-term goal of the Meaford Legion is to have their own building once more, but this will require significant support from the community. The last function they were able to host in their own building was the 2009 Remembrance Day Banquet. Meetings have been held all around town since then and they are currently meeting in the Terrace Room at Meaford Hall. In the short term, the Meaford Legion is seeking more members so they can host functions again and maintain a strong presence in the community.
While members of the Meaford Legion are on duty all year round, Remembrance Day is a major focus with the Poppy Funds campaign, cenotaph vigil, and other events taking place this time of year. Rice believes, “We have to take war right out of the equation. Remembrance Day is not about war… it’s about the people who fell during conflicts.” Riordan also notes that “we lost way too many people peacekeeping,” since often the Canadian military intervened as peacekeepers.
They would also like to clear up the misconception about the poppy, which isn’t for sale but given for the public to wear in commemoration. Donations are, however, gratefully accepted, anything and everything helps. Donations can be given any time of the year now through e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in how to give, join the Meaford Legion online through legion.ca and make sure to specify Branch 32. Contact Marty Riordan or Steve Rice through email at email@example.com, check out the Meaford Legion Facebook page, or stop by the monthly meetings at Meaford Hall at 7 p.m., on the second Wednesday of every month (next meeting December 13).
As the busyness of life consumes us, make sure to take a moment this November 11th to quiet your mind and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who continue to serve, or just remember someone who impacted your life.