Canadian Legion No. 001

Remembrance Day: A civilian’s responsibility?

Today being Remembrance Day, I was thinking about a recent post in which I quoted an article exploring how Canadians need to do more for Remembrance Day.

Since then, while watching all the usual Remembrance Day coverage on television, I saw a news report about the increasingly troubled Canadian Legions. Several have closed or are slated to close because of low memberships and revenue.

What really surprised me, was to learn that civilians can become members and reap the same benefits enjoyed by military members and veterans.

Acccording to, “The legion has been losing members at a rate of about 8,000 a year. Part of that is due to death – the largest cohort of members are veterans of the Second World War, a conflict that ended more than 70 years ago – but it has been a challenge to attract and retain veterans of more recent conflicts.”

The Royal Canadian Legion was founded in 1926 to lobby for the needs of veterans returning from the first world war.  That service expanded to include other veterans, including those who’ve never been to war.

Some believe the Canadian Legion has become outdated and no longer represents the military and veterans as they exist in today’s world.

Mark and Stuart in Remembrance Day Parade.
Mark and Stuart in Remembrance Day Parade. c 2000.

A discussion on the subject between my husband, Mark and I caused me to immediately say, “Why don’t we register and get memberships for the kids as Christmas gifts?”

Mark is a veteran, but the others would be civilian memberships.

Then, while researching the subject, I discovered this Global News article about how the veterans themselves feel. I was shocked at how out of touch I have been, especially being the wife and daughter of military veterans.

According to those interviewed for the article:

One of the biggest complaints they have is the number of civilians who are now members. Though most of them mean well, they’re not making the Legion enough of a home for those who’ve served Canada because they don’t understand the military culture.

“There’s a very strict disconnect between what they do, and what we do …”

Also, because of this disconnect, they don’t always provide the services that veterans need — like enough support for those who suffer from PTSD.

Erin in her Air Cadet Uniform
Erin in her Air Cadet Uniform c 2007.

Surely there are ways to include civilians in some of the programs, increasing understanding on both sides? Although a civilian, I am a sufferer of PTSD and a program I could access that is separate from the woefully inadequate mental health system might be a place to start.

I never considered myself out of touch because of my background in the military and veteran cultures. However, as different as veterans and civilians are, there are indeed common circumstances and obstacles we all struggle with.

These articles caused me to doubt my idea of giving civilian memberships as gifts.

Then again, isn’t that a good place to start?

Civilians becoming members would enable learning more about our veterans, and increasing our understanding of each other.

At the very least, some if not all of the endangered legion branches may be saved. This could actually buy time for the legions to update and adapt to today’s veteran and their families.

My genealogy research into the extensive military history of both sides of our family has taught me a great deal and enabled me to become aware of how important it is for civilians to support our veterans – and never forget the sacrifices made in all conflicts, including World War I and World War II.

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