The annual Legion Poppy campaign is kicking off this coming week. Not only is the effort vital to raise awareness of the great services veterans have rendered to our country – a small token of gratitude from a population that enjoys the peace it has today because of their sacrifice – it is also vital to the Legion’s broader efforts in the community to provide financial support to local veterans suffering from financial hardships.
This may be the most overlooked aspect of the Poppy Campaign, but one which we cannot afford to overlook this year. Let’s face it, times are hard. They are hard for everybody right now, and they are also hard for veterans on fixed incomes, some of whom are struggling with PTSD and other disabilities associated with their military service.
The Legion’s Poppy Fund helps to supplement these veterans’ meager incomes to buy an extra bag of groceries here and there, purchase a tank of gas, or render a little help paying their bills when a dollar can no longer be stretched any further.
Canada, sadly, has a relatively poor history of financially supporting veterans struggling with mental and physical health and issues when they cannot work.
Just last week, Canada Post dedicated a new stamp in honour of one of Canada’s most decorated war veterans, Tommy Prince, with great fanfare. Prince was part of the famed Devil’s Brigade and served in both the Second World War and the Korean War.
But he died penniless, alone and broken in a flophouse in Winnipeg in 1977.
Prince suffered from PTSD for much of his post-war life and descended into alcohol abuse when the demons of war wouldn’t leave him alone. It is a national shame such a warrior should have ended his life this way with little or no support, and only posthumous recognition for his bravery and his sacrifice.
Sadly, Prince’s story is not uncommon in the Canadian experience, and there are veterans right here in our community struggling to financially support themselves right now.
The poppy may be the physical representation we put on our lapels to remember and honour the sacrifices of soldiers of the past, and to recognize the service of those who are still with us.
However, when we put on the poppy this November here in our own community, let it not just be a symbol of these monumental things – let it also be a symbol of the care and compassion we feel for the local veterans in our midst who are suffering financial hardship in these difficult times.
Move him into the sun –
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know …