Despite decades of service and retirement, two St. Catharines men are still on duty, handing out poppies.
Sgt. Major Harry Mussell and Sgt. Major David Hagan, both of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 24, have set up a poppy campaign inside the Real Canadian Superstore in St. Catharines.
With almost 40 years of service and 30 years of friendship between them, the two soldiers have long since retired but are on duty to collect donations for fellow veterans, handing out poppies in exchange.
Both men said poppies were an important symbol of remembrance of lives lost, but so is financially supporting those who served and are alive today.
“In my opinion, we live in the best free country in the world and it didn’t come cheap,” Mussell said. “And a lot of these veterans, they need our help and I'm damn happy to come out here and help them get by."
Wanting to help out during the Korean War, the now 88-year-old Mussell joined the Armed Forces at the age of 21. After training, he earned his ranking of sergeant major but was never deployed overseas and instead worked as a gunnery instructor for his 10-year career.
“We believe that veterans deserve better,” said Hagan. “And if we don't do something, nobody will.”
For 91-year-old Hagan, service started when he joined the cadets at just 14 in the United Kingdom, moving to Canada and enlisting in the Canadian military in 1954. His service sent him around the world, he says, naming Malaysia, Palestine and Tripoli as stops he made on tour.
Hagan said part of the army's job is to protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the country, but the most valuable lesson he’s learned in his service is “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”
Until Nov 10., both sergeant majors will be handing out poppies for a donation inside the Real Canadian Superstore at 411 Louth St. in St. Catharines from noon to 4 p.m. All proceeds will go to supporting veterans.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News