46th Dominion Convention Report
St. John’s, Newfoundland, 11-15 th June, 2016
Wilma Jones, President of Gibsons Branch 109 Legion and Jennifer Braun a member of the Branch, attended the Convention. There was a total of 1500 Legionnaires present from across the country. On Sunday, we marched in the parade, together with bands and colour parties and proceeded to the National War Memorial.
The term “National” refers to this monument being built by the Dominion of Newfoundland as a nation, before it became part of Canada. July 1 st is Memorial Day in the province and ceremonies are held at the Memorial to honour the dead in all wars but initially to honour the fallen who, in the First World War, left Newfoundland and fell at Beaumont Hamel during the Battle of the Somme. This year is the 100 years anniversary – 800 Newfoundlanders left and only 69 returned.
Workshops and business meetings were held over the four days, which included a number of speakers. Three young veterans impressed me with their passion for helping veterans now coming back from areas of conflict.
One story of Jody Mitic, who trained as a Canadian sniper, was poignant in that he had both legs below the knees blown off after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan. He has overcome his adversity and is a respected advocate for wounded veterans and also now a councillor for the city of Ottawa. He was also a star competitor with his brother in the Amazing Race Canada. He has written a book called Unflinching, The Making of a Canadian Sniper. An interesting read, I bought my copy at Convention.
The second, Paul Nichols, is a veteran and rancher in Quesnel. He set off on a Ride Across Canada on his horse to spread the word about PTSD and its effect on returning veterans. He is asking communities to embrace our new veterans to ensure they feel they are not alone. He is trying to bridge the gap between military and non-military cultures. He and his wife Terry have their ranch open to other veterans as part of the healing process from PTSD.
The organization Paul worked with on the Ride was Communities for Veterans Foundation. He set off from Victoria in April 2015 and finished the Ride in St. John’s Newfoundland in November 2015. He rode 6000km and spent eight months away from home. Along the way 350 riders, as part of a relay team, joined him on the ride. This has been a life-changing experience for all of them. If you go on to the website: communitiesforveterans.ca you can see what he achieved.
The third, has been working with the Legion and Veterans Affairs to establish a change. He was very passionate about the need for this. Operational Stress Injury Special Section was adopted at Convention to assist veterans and their families to ensure they have the medical care they need. They will work closely with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. The aim is to de-stigmatize the public perception of Veterans with OSI and promote research into treatment and prevention. In order to access this assistance you need to become a member of the Royal Canadian Legion.
All three young veterans have been suffering from PTSD and each told their story of being in very dark places at times and of their efforts to overcome this illness. Many do not, and suicides have become common. In the times of World War I and II this would be termed “shellshock”.
My request to everyone is that if you are aware of any younger Veterans in our community please bring them in to the Legion. The comments from those three young men that once you leave your camaraderie of your troop there is a void in your life. We need to fill that void and make them welcome back into the community. This also applies to RCMP members.
Wilma Jones (President, Branch 109)