Mount Cheam looms in the background as the Canadian flag waves in the wind outside the Agassiz Legion Hall. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Mount Cheam looms in the background as the Canadian flag waves in the wind outside the Agassiz Legion Hall. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Gather and Remember: Agassiz Legion members reflect on Remembrance Day

Camaraderie found in Legion creates lifelong friendships, a way to bond

The cold November wind whipped across the Canadian flag outside the Agassiz Legion Hall. Inside, there was warmth and home to a fellowship like no other.

Remembrance Day is Friday, Nov. 11. Members of the Agassiz Legion and the Agassiz-Harrison community take this time every year to remember those who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms Canadians enjoy today.

Remembering the sacrifice

Colin Morris, a former member of the Royal Artillery in the British Army, said Remembrance Day brings thoughts of the unsung heroes of wars past, recognized far too late in his mind – the Merchant Marines.

“Coming from England, that’s how they kept England going,” he said. “Both navies, the Royal Canadian Nay and the Royal Navy guarded those convoys. And without them, there would never have been a Battle of Britain or anything because we could not have survived. So Remembrance Day, to me, is remembering those brave guys that kept us going until members of the Commonwealth came to our defense.”

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Doug Noble served in the Royal Westminster regiment with attachments in the 3rd batallion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in the Canadian airborne regiment. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, who were World War I and II veterans, respectively.

Noble thinks of his uncle on Remembrance Day; he survived World War II only to die in a motor vehicle accident three months after the war ended.

For Legion president Frank Stover, like many of his fellow Legion members, wants to keep the memories of all veterans alive and prevent the freedom Canadians enjoy from being taken for granted.

“I’m not happy with how our youth are not grasping the price of freedom,” he said. “You know, these guys were like 17, 18 years old; they gave their life for our freedom. They gave their lives so you could burn our flags and you could protest our government. That’s what I’m trying to get out there; somewhere, it’s getting lost. I don’t want that to ever get lost.”

Many veterans and Legion members know the horror and strains of war first-hand. Morris recalled his time in the subway tunnels during bombings in England, separated from his family.

“We had families break up,” he said. “During the war, the British government separated us because they said if family got wiped out, at least one was still around. My brother was sent away, and I never saw him until the end of the war. I didn’t even know who he was.”

An unbreakable bond

As the afternoon went on, more members of the Legion arrived, and a fresh new set of greetings raised as friends gathered at tables around their respective drinks and hockey on the big screen.

Morris has been with the Agassiz Legion for 30 years.

“I recognize the good work the Legion was doing in the community and I felt that was worthwhile to join so I could help any way I could. Mind you, I was a lot younger in those days,” he said with a chuckle. “But that was a major reason I joined because of the tremendous work the Legion does in the community, not only for veterans but anybody that has fallen on hard times.

Stover, a former Seaforth Highlander reservist, saw a way he could give back by opening the Legion’s kitchen and using his love for cooking.

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Noble joined the Legion 10 years ago to help other veterans get help for the trauma they carried.

“I was watching problems with members of my own unit coming back from Afghanistan with all sorts of problems,” he said. “In fact, there were three members of the regiment who served in Afghanistan who committed suicide. I was like ‘What’s going on here?’”

In Stover’s mind, the spirit of the Legion started out as a gathering of soldiers who could find catharsis sharing their experiences, stories and troubles with fellow veterans.

“The guys didn’t have (names for) PTSD or all these syndromes and they knew they couldn’t talk to the public,” he said. “So they got together with soldiers who survived and could communicate and get it off their chest so they can sleep. Back then, they did it themselves because the public couldn’t believe the horrors they’d seen.”

“The camaraderie there develops very quickly because of (shared) experiences,” Noble added. “It can be quite jaw-dropping to see what goes on. Most people don’t get to see what we see. It’s very, very traumatic. I think if they’re speaking like to me who’s served with the unit, had the same experiences as them that they tend to open up to you, and when they open up, they can get it off their chest. So hopefully that would be my little contribution in trying to help.”

Remembrance Day ceremonies begin at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Agassiz Cenotaph, located at the intersection of Morrow and Vimy Road.


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