By Charlie Senack
After last year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Westboro was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the public is being invited to gather again to remember the sacrifices made by those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The ceremony will happen on Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. outside of the Westboro cenotaph, located between Richmond Road and Byron Avenue. While this year’s event will look more traditional, it will not feature a parade.
“Last year, we were not even allowed to have the cenotaph. This year, they said we could have a parade again, but we could not have the cadets or our sponsors, so we decided that we would not go ahead with the parade, but would keep our service at the cenotaph,” said Greg Murphy, the Westboro Legion’s new president.
The annual Poppy Campaign is also making a comeback this year. While some stores carried poppy boxes last year, they were sparse and hard to find. The pandemic meant volunteers could not set up outside of stores and inside malls to hand out poppies.
Legions all across Canada rely on their poppy campaigns to raise much needed funds for veterans and daily operations. The Westboro Legion said this year they will have volunteers staff at least two poppy tables — one at Carlingwood Mall and the other at the Real Canadian Superstore on Richmond Road.
The Legion is also making Remembrance Day lawn signs and wreaths available for purchase which will raise funds for veterans.
“We have so many people who gave us wreaths, but because we just don’t have enough time, some are going to be laid ahead of the ceremony, and then we will lay a few more during the ceremony,” said Murphy. “We are going to have the firefighters’ band, and then, at the end, we will invite everyone back to the Legion. Usually we serve food, but we can’t do that just yet.”
And on Nov. 7, they will be delivering complimentary Remembrance meals to the homes of veterans: a small act to show they care.
The Westboro Legion has been operating at 50 per cent capacity since reopening a few months ago. As restrictions continue to ease, the team is hopeful full attendance to events could soon be on the horizon.
They’ve brought back some events, bringing a sense of normalcy for the Legion’s community.
“We have brought back drop-in darts, and just had a foot band here on Saturday night, and free pool on weekends,” said Murphy. “We are going to open up a little more when the province says we can, but we are going to be very careful because a lot of our members are at a certain age where they are more vulnerable and need to be cautious.”
In October, the Legion was able to hold its first concert in a year and a half. Only 50 people were allowed to attend, but they quickly sold out tickets. Dancing is still not permitted, but it was a chance for members to catch up with their friends, said Murphy.
With events making a comeback, the Legion will be able to replenish their funds which suffered through the pandemic. When everything shut down in 2020, so did all the activities the Legion relies on to lay their bills. Thankfully, though government support and help from the community, Murphy said they seem to be in the clear.
“We have had great support from our neighbourhood, from our members and from federal help,” he said. “We have opened up and we are serving the public again. We have even had new people come in [and] thank us for what we are doing. Everyone wants to help our veterans and that’s how it should be.”
Importance of Remembrance Day
Dave Kirk chairs the honours and awards department at the Westboro Legion and also helps with membership. Kirk served in the Canadian Military for 14 years, most of that time spent at sea.
Kirk also spent over four years in Germany where he joined a Legion branch there. After returning to Canada, he joined the Westboro branch and became involved actively. Reflecting on his time serving Canada, Kirk had nothing but praise.
“In the navy and serving on ships, everyone has to get along,” he said. “You just learn to live with people and to get along with each other. It comes with a lot of trust because you rely on each other constantly because the type of work you are doing is very dangerous.”
Despite never fighting in battles, Remembrance Day is an important time to reflect, said Kirk, and he hopes others will do the same.
“I have not been involved in any conflicts and I left the military just prior to the Gulf War, so I, fortunately, have not lost any close friends or anything,” Kirk said. “But it’s still a time to look back at the conflicts we have been in and the people we have lost, so the whole thing is not in vain. It’s time to remember those we lost in tragic circumstances.”
And Kirk also had a message to young people for this Nov. 11.
“Take a moment and think about wars and conflicts we have been in: World War One, Two; the Korean, Afghan and Gulf wars,” he said. “Think of the people who gave up their lives. Wear a poppy to show that you care — even if you don’t have change, pick one up and wear it with pride.”
Visit rcl480.com to learn more about this year’s service or the 2021 Poppy Campaign.