The time has come to dispel myths about Legionnaires

If you haven’t considered membership with the Courtenay Legion, Legion Week is your opportunity to.

If you haven’t considered membership with the Courtenay Legion, Legion Week is your opportunity to.

The public is invited to a fun-filled week of celebration starting June 25 when the Ladies’ Auxiliary hosts a formal tea. The Legion will also offer a veterans’ luncheon on the 27th. As seating is limited to 160 people, veterans eat free and will be accommodated first.  Space allowing, tickets will be available to the public for $8. The public can also drop by for a pancake breakfast on the morning of the 19th, and is invited to stick around for an afternoon meet-and-greet with Legion veterans.  A formal banquet will take place the following evening; tickets are on sale for $20.

The week of festivities will conclude July 1 when the Legion’s colour party and pipe band take part in Courtenay’s annual Canada Day parade.

Legion PR chair Kathryn Askew is eager to educate the public about where the Legion has come from, where it’s going, and how it’s helping improve our community. She encourages new membership, and hopes the week will be an informative “opening up of possibilities for the Legion today.”

Founded in 1926 for the cause of veterans, Legion structure has since led to community service. The non-profit organization now sponsors a number of philanthropic initiatives ranging from medical fellowship programs to low-income housing assistance.

At the national level, the Legion has evolved into a powerful humanitarian force; but Courtenay event co-ordinator Frank Burden feels a handful of harmful myths are discouraging Valley residents from considering membership with the Legion’s Courtenay branch.

Firstly, Burden makes it clear that today’s Legion welcomes everyone of legal age. The Legion is not exclusively for ex-military people, says Burden.

“It’s no longer necessary (for members to) have a military connection.”

In actuality, the organization is eager to attract new members from all backgrounds. Currently boasting roughly 900 members, Burden declares the Legion’s Courtenay branch would like to hit the 1,000 mark.

Burden also wants to dispel the myth that “all people do at the Legion is drink.”

Although it hosts well-attended bingo nights and themed dances, the organization primarily aims to improve our community through a variety of non-profit initiatives. The Legion proclaims its “mission is to serve veterans and their families, to promote remembrance and to serve our communities and our countries.”

Thus, while the Legion derives a significant portion of its funding from the sale of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, these transactions are far from its chief objective.

“We’re not all old people (either),” Burden laughs, dismissing a final myth. As soldiers return from more recent military campaigns such as peacekeeping operations in Cyprus and the Golan Heights, a new generation of veterans — many suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — require the Legion’s aid.

“Older and younger veterans’ needs differ,” explains Burden, referring to a veterans’ transition program the Legion runs in conjunction with the University of B.C.

The Legion additionally funds a number of community-based youth programs, and hopes the younger generation will continue these services in coming years. The organization also subsidizes two minor hockey teams and offers substantial bursaries to graduating high school students. The Legion encourages youth to join its pipe band, which welcomes musicians of all levels and offers knowledgeable instruction in the pipes and drums.

If you’re not around for Legion Week, drop by the Legion’s Courtenay location at 367 Cliffe Ave. Office hours are 11 a.m. to about 3 or 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Or, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/people/Courtenay-Legion/100003059562446.

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