There’s an incredible sense of history, peace, and togetherness as one walks through the doors of Royal Canadian Legions across our country. Peace River Royal Canadian Branch is no different, with memorabilia collected by the town’s Veterans through the years used as décor, both serving as an educational opportunity and a way to pay tribute. It’s organized in a way that introduces a warm atmosphere to invite folks to spend some time and enjoy one another’s company. “We had Alberta’s 55+ Games here, many athletes were Legion members from other provinces,” says Peace River Branch president Chad Shoaf. “They said this was the coziest, home-like Legion they had ever been in.” Legions were initially created in November 1925 to provide support for Veterans and their family members. The creation was a result of the end of the first World War, with an objective to provide a voice for First World War Veterans. After the Second World War, the Legion expanded to provide more support to Veterans, including those serving abroad. Legions provide support for all Veterans, including Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP and their families. But Legions are not only for Veterans and their families, anyone can buy an affiliate membership to show support. “We’ve been conditioned to think people (at Legions) will be white-haired, listening to Patsy Cline while playing crib,” says Shoaf. “The reality is kids are even allowed here if parents want to come have a drink and play darts. We have lots of things for kids to do. We have models, colouring, television, X-box, and a lot of other things for kids.” Shoaf explains that many of the Veterans in each community are quite young. Many have served in places like Afghanistan or Iraq in recent years. Some have been in active duty, while others have served in peacekeeping missions, or have served in supporting roles. He expresses Legions are meant to be a place that welcomes everyone, all ages, and all interests. No one is turned away. He does say that politics should be left at the door to ensure everyone feels comfortable.
According to the Royal Canadian Legion website, members of Legions show thanks by supporting and advocating for Veterans, by remembering their sacrifices, and by continuing the tradition of service in helping our communities. “Anyone can be a member of a Legion,” says Shoaf, noting that there are a few rules to follow when becoming a member. “Everyone is here to have a good time and you must love Canada.” Membership for the year is $50, with all proceeds going back to maintenance and costs associated with running the facilities. Peace River’s hours are Friday starting at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. If you plan on attending the Legion, please note that Friday is Red Friday; visitors are asked to wear red in remembrance of everyone deployed. Meat draws are held every Saturday. Tickets can be purchased to win one of four packages (totalling $200 value) of meat. A Super Meat Draw will be held starting in October, with the draw happening just before Christmas. This will be one beef split into four, with tickets $20 each. Shoaf welcomes new members, hoping that new participants can come out and see all that the Legion has to offer. There are Royal Canadian Legion branches throughout the country. Local branches are found in Peace River, McLennan, High Prairie, Grimshaw and Fairview.
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Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, South Peace News