Not all veterans have served in wartime, but as William Douglas can attest, there’s always much work to be done in the service of your country.
Sitting in Winnipeg Branch No. 1 of the Royal Canadian Legion (626 Sargent Ave.), Douglas, 76, said the legal definition of a veteran is someone who has spent a minimum of three years in active service in one of the armed forces.
Douglas spent two years as a reservist from 1952 to 1953. He then spent one term in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After that, he delved into a career working on aircraft at the airport.
"During my time in the service, there was no actual war. I missed the Korean War (by) about four months," Douglas said. Canada’s involvement in the Korean War ended in July of 1953, and Douglas joined the service in November of 1953.
Though he didn’t see action, the risks of life in the Forces were still made clear to him during his service. He recalled witnessing people dying in aircraft collisions, including one that happened over the Charleswood area. He also witnessed a man jump out of a plane and plummet to his death because his parachute didn’t open.
"I don’t go to air shows anymore," Douglas said.
In addition to being a veteran, Douglas was also the president of the No. 1 branch from 2011 to 2012. He also mentioned it was also the first Royal Canadian Legion branch to be built in Canada.
"This legion was formed in 1916," Douglas said.
"We’re here to look out for the remaining veterans and their dependents. That’s the whole idea of the Legion in the first place: to look after the remaining veterans."
However, the branch doesn’t host many veterans these days. Douglas said on any given day, the branch typically sees a maximum of three to four veterans.
"A lot of them don’t have the mobility to come in anymore. That’s our biggest problem in the Legion: we’re losing members, simply because they’re too old and passing away," Douglas said. "Other branches seem to have funerals every week, every month."
The branch is commemorating this upcoming Remembrance Day by hosting a parade, a ceremony, and an open house.
"We do a parade at Sargent and Valour Road at 11 a.m.," Douglas said. "And we do our own little ceremony outside (of the Legion). After the ceremony, the open house goes from noon to whenever, and everyone is welcome to attend."
For more information about the Royal Canadian Legion, visit legion.ca