Bruce Davies spends a lot of time at the Osoyoos branch of the Royal Canadian Legion —but nowhere near as much as he does as Remembrance Day approaches.
Thursday morning, he’s seated at a table in a quiet Legion Hall across from fellow member Linda Allen, a large pile of coin between them.
Honour boxes offering the distinctive red poppy around the community have been collected; now the pair are rolling the coin for delivery to the bank.
“We try to maximize our efforts to bring in poppy funds for the veterans,” Bruce says of the two weeks previous to Remembrance Day. “You can find a dozen of more people (in Osoyoos) standing on sidewalks handing out poppies and poppy trays are also located in upwards of 40 venues in the community.
“It’s the one event we use to raise money for veterans and their families. Throughout the rest of the year, we allocate the funds according to need and request.”
This year, with Remembrance Day falling on the weekend, the clock was turned “back by one weekend” and sales started a week earlier.
The poppy funds are collected specifically for veterans and used exclusively “for the care and benefits for all who served Canada, regardless of when or where they served.”
That includes armed forces veterans, peacekeepers and members of the RCMP. Services are offered at the local, provincial and federal level.
The poppy campaign is just one part of the Legion’s mission, though. As it succinctly relates in a statement of purpose, “the Legion exists so that Canada never forgets.”
In the days leading up to Remembrance Day, the Osoyoos branch will be busy delivering an official community Remembrance Day service and assisting with other events around town.
“The schools do a very nice job of organizing a service themselves,” he says. “We attend as a colour party. And there’s a service at Mariposa for any veterans and members who are there and unable to make the main service.”
Sunday, the branch will focus on a service and ceremony that begins at the Sonora Centre and continues at the Main Street Cenotaph.
“We keep it fairly compact,” Bruce says of the Sonora service. “Osoyoos, in particular, has a high population of seniors and they just can’t stand for very long. And a lot of the ceremony involves standing.
“We keep the service compact so everyone can participate and it’s not too hard on them.”
Wreath laying follows at the Cenotaph, with dignitaries and others moving to the Main Street location around noon.
The service and ceremony involves a six-member colour party, including a Sergeant-at-Arms, who is responsible for organizing the order of colours.
A delegation from the American Legion in Oroville will likely attend.
Services Sunday start at the Sonora Centre at 10:45 a.m. — although doors will open at 10 a.m.
Following the roughly hour-long service, Remembrance Day ceremonies move to the Main Street Cenotaph, where dignitaries will lay wreaths on behalf of their various organizations.
“They are a dedicated group in Osoyoos and we are lucky to have their expertise, energy and commitment to the veterans and their members,” said Mayor Sue McKortoff of the organization, adding all of her council members will participate at the services.
Bruce says he’s not sure what attendance will be like on Sunday, with many residents having to choose between church and Remembrance Day services. But he expects interest will be high.
“It actually faded years ago but has resurrected over the years,” he says of Remembrance Day support. “Probably because of the way the world is now — there’s a lot more wars.
“And the news coverage. It wasn’t visual like it is today — the Vietnam War did that, where they had the journalists on the front line and people could see. That kind of sticks in people’s minds — the goings-on of what happens in a war — and then people start to pay attention more.”