The Royal Canadian Legion, St. Croix Branch # 9, and Milltown Branch #48, will begin their annual poppy campaigns this week on Oct. 28.
Poppies will be distributed to various businesses in St. Stephen and to those in outlying districts by legion members and members of the Ladies Auxiliary.
“The poppy campaign is the foundation of our remembrance program,” said Branch #9 poppy chairperson Leon Savoie.
“We provide Canadians with the opportunity to remember by providing them with a poppy and the opportunity to participate in Remembrance Day services.”
Funds raised each year from donations received during the campaign contribute to the national poppy trust fund which is used for the comforts and needs of veterans and to take care of veterans and their dependents. Savoie said that could include providing furniture for a room in a nursing home, bursaries to graduating students, like those from four local schools in the greater St. Stephen area, and for upgrades to facilities, such as the recent renovation at the legion hall on Queen Street to provide wheelchair accessible washrooms.
Bill Olsen, Branch #48 member and past poppy chair, said the money raised during the poppy campaign “is like a public trust” and urged everyone to wear a poppy, especially on Remembrance Day
Savoie stressed people needed to know they don’t “buy” a poppy. “They are making a donation. The poppy is a thank you for the donation and a visible reminder of the sacrifices made,” said Savoie.
In a voice breaking with emotion, Savoie stated, “We are the guardians of remembrance and in the lines of John McRae: ‘If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep though poppies blow in Flanders Field’.”
Savoie was referring to the immortal words of Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae who penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” May 3, 1915 on the battlefront during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium the day after his close friend and former student Alexis Helmer was killed by a German shell.
“The poppy campaign is very near and dear to my heart. My father spent quite a few years over there, said Savoie.”
Savoie’s father, Jaddus Savoie, served in WWII in England, Belgium, Italy, France, North Africa and Germany, before returning home.
Savoie stressed the legion’s activities go far beyond the two weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.
“In addition to providing assistance to veterans and their dependents, we foster the tradition of remembrance amongst our youth, the leaders of tomorrow.” The legion hosts literary essay and poster contests.
He said he couldn’t begin to think what would happen if the legions lost their poppy campaigns.
“The consequences would be too drastic to imagine.”
Saying the poppy campaign is a lot of work for the chair and those on the committee Savoie said they do it because it is so very important.
He said the poppies will be offered in St. Stephen on Oct. 28-29 at these same places Nov. 4 and 5.
In addition to the poppy campaign, this legion is also offering a free supper for all veterans on Nov. 3 at the legion on Queen Street. Stand to is from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with the 6 p.m. dinner prepared and served by the Ladies Auxiliary members.
“All veterans are welcome; it doesn’t matter what branch they served in,” said Savoie.
Judy Olsen, who with Branch #48 president Amy McCrum are chairs of their legion’s poppy campaign, said members are planning a free breakfast for the public following this year’s Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in Milltown.
The breakfast will be served at the St. Croix Christian Centre. Olsen said legion members, of which there are approximately 30, have been asked to form up at the cenotaph for the service instead of parading to the location.