Veterans from all the wars welcome here

Legion eyes younger generation

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As fewer and fewer veterans from the Second World War and the Korean War are still with us, the Royal Canadian Legion held a gathering Sunday at its St. Boniface chapter to welcome the newest generation of veterans -- soldiers who've served in Afghanistan.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/08/2011 (4029 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As fewer and fewer veterans from the Second World War and the Korean War are still with us, the Royal Canadian Legion held a gathering Sunday at its St. Boniface chapter to welcome the newest generation of veterans — soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan.

The legion wants to make sure the latest generation of combat veterans knows its membership is open to all who’ve served — not just those with grey hair.

Sgts. Andrew Harris and Russell Moore, young men who served in Afghanistan, were invited to the gathering.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sgt. Russell Moore (left) and Sgt. Andrew Harris share a laugh Sunday with Second World War veteran Roger Ptosnick at the Norwood and St. Boniface Royal Canadian Legion.

“I never actually felt myself being a veteran, yet, and still don’t feel it. I’m just a troop doing his job and maybe when I retire then I’ll actually have that feeling,” said Harris, who felt honoured to be welcomed by the legion.

His friend Moore joined the legion 11 years ago when he signed up for the military, but said he still doesn’t feel like a veteran.

In the recent conflict, Harris and Moore were assigned to “disruption” — finding Taliban insurgents and drawing them out — as well as serving with reconstruction teams.

Cpl. James Hayward Arnal of Winnipeg was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. His mother, Wendy Hayward, gave an emotional tribute to her son during the gathering.

“We need to redefine what a veteran is,” said MLA Bonnie Korzeniowski (NDP-St. James), the special envoy for military affairs.

“It’s hard to look at these vibrant young men and women today” and use that word, she said.

The mother of a fallen soldier from Winnipeg — who served with Moore and Harris — gave an emotional tribute at the gathering to her late son, James Hayward Arnal.

“I’ve learned that life is worth fighting for and that death is worth enduring and, last but not least, I’ve realized that I do still have lots to lose,” Wendy Hayward said, fighting back tears.

Hayward travelled to Afghanistan after her son’s death and worked at a Tim Hortons on a Canadian base.

“He was always telling me, ‘You’ve got to do what makes you happy,’ but then I would go to work and I would complain about office politics and I was in that rut. But I refuse to get in that rut anymore,” Hayward said, talking with reporters after the speech.

The legion is not formally associated with the military.

It formed after the Second World War as an advocacy group for veterans and a community service organization.

william.burr@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Veterans

by the numbers

 

— THE average age of 143,700 surviving Second World War veterans is 87, while the average age of 12,000 Korean War veterans is 78, as of March 2010, says Veterans Affairs Canada.

— There are a lot more Canadian Forces veterans out there, though: 593,700 of them, whose average age is 54.

— The Royal Canadian Legion says it has 341,717 paid members this year, down about 40,000 over the past five years.

— Manitoba has 27,385 members, down 3,711 in the past five years.

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