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OPINION: Thorold Legion sets new course (6 photos)

While accepting the inherent duties of their organization, Legion Branch 17 members have their vision clearly focused on the future

He is among the most welcome guests there, but it's not your father's Legion anymore.

The Royal Canadian Legion is paramount in preserving heritage, memories and permanent monuments to those who have served, and continue to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

This past week saw the annual memorial duties of Decoration Day ceremonies and the 75th Anniversary of D-Day resting squarely on the shoulders of current Legion members. As veteran membership declines, rising to their responsibilities was never more evident.

And with the survivors of two world wars and their families shrinking in numbers, the Legion has begun transforming into a much more versatile community organization. Providing a place for veterans and service men and women will always be paramount, but the community focal point, which Legions across the country have always provided, is becoming a more crucial objective.

Three other events occurred last weekend which highlight this community facilitator role.

First, they erected memorial photos of three Niagara veterans who gave their lives in Afghanistan. Individual photos of Corporal Tyler Crooks of Port Colborne, Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown of St. Catharines, and Corporal Albert Hugh Storm of Niagara Falls, now hang below a plaque containing names and photos of all Canadians lost in Afghanistan. 

Shortly after Decoration Day ceremonies, Legion Branch #17 presented an annual $2,000 donation from the Branch Poppy Fund to 128 Thorold Flying Dragons Air Cadet Squadron.

According to Legion member Glenn Kempson, "These funds are to support and encourage cadet units that have assisted the branch with the Poppy Campaign or other Remembrance activities. The squadron is always willing to help us with our Poppy Campaign and with our Remembrance and Decoration Day services and other events."

By presenting this cheque, the Legion clearly demonstrated both primary roles: they secured support for memorial activities going forward and they provided an example of the type of help they give to many community organizations on an ongoing basis. The Cadets are only one of many organizations they have helped.

The day before Decoration Day, the Legion hosted a barbecue and a staple of their recent offerings, an evening of music and dancing.

These social functions, as mentioned, have always been a part of their role but now the doors have been opened wide and conduct rules have eased in efforts to welcome more and more visitors. No longer do guests have to be members to enjoy activities there and a large "Welcome to Branch 17," sign hangs on the door to punctuate this.

Tonight (Friday, June 7) the Legion hosts one of Niagara's most popular bands, the Howling Horns and as always at the new Legion, everyone is welcome.