With great reverence the Royal Canadian Legion celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Field Marshal Alexander Branch No. 11 in Vermilion on May 12.
Festivities included a barbeque at the Legion with displays from the Armed Forces, the Vermilion Legion, and Veteran family members; as well a banquet and dance at the Vermilion Regional Centre.
A LAV 6 sat outside the Legion with members of the 3rd Canadian Division - 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry displaying a selection of weaponry. Community members had the opportunity to inspect a C6 machine gun, Carl Gustaf rocket launcher, a C9 machine gun, as well as C7 and C8 rifles. Sgt. Darren Isley and Lt(n) Gwen Rogers from the 41 Canadian Brigade Group in Edmonton had a recruiting booth for the reserves set up. With domestic operations as their primary focus, Islay remembered responding to the Calgary floods on Memorial Drive and said, “It was a humbling experience seeing the faces of the people you are helping.”
Inside the Legion, several items were on display including cap badges, and 32 plaques out of the known 220 names from both world wars in the surrounding area. Pvt. Thomas Alban Snelgrove’s (1893 – 1917) display was set up with great nephew, Robert Snelgrove, describing the families experience over the past few years uncovering more artifacts and memorabilia.
Displays also included some of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps which only had two training camps; one at Lakeland College in Vermilion and one in Ontario. Sgt. Vera Storey’s experience included tear gas training and fond memories of skiing in the Vermilion River Valley. The first female Canadian artist to go overseas to document the war effort, Molly Lamb Boback, published an illustrated diary that includes sketches of her time in Vermilion.
As guests entered the Regional Centre author, Charlotte Smith, signed copies of her ‘We Will Remember Them’ book; and Barry Roth played the bagpipes as honoured guests entered the room. It was a stately affair as members of the Vermilion Army Cadets L. Edm. R. 2645 served the head table a catered meal.
Emcee, Master Corporal Retired Paul Franklin has been a full time Veteran’s Advocate since 2009. According to Franklin, after serving two tours in Afghanistan as a medic, 2006 was one of the best years of his life even though a suicide bomb ripped through a Mercedes G Wagon causing him to lose both of his legs because he found purpose helping to change the Canadian medical system at large, and aid veterans in their recovery and rehabilitation. For his own recovery, Franklin had to attend rehabilitation in the United States, but has now assisted in setting up rehabilitation at the Glenrose Hospital in Edmonton. With his life being saved thanks to a fellow service member applying a tourniquet, he advocated to now have Canadian EMS service members carrying tourniquets.
“The Canadian History is long and deep in this area. Western Canadian small towns supplied many WWI and WWII soldiers, nurses, and sailors, and we need to keep supporting veterans and still serving members with the Canadian Forces in peace keeping, homeland security, and natural disasters. There is something about a Canadian Forces member serving in the military and how they choose to commit to protect their homeland and overseas. It takes a community to get behind the effort, and we don’t often pat ourselves on the back but we should. We volunteer for this stuff, and we are the best small military in the world. Saving lives, that’s how Canada works and how small towns work together; not to make the world another Canada, but to give others an opportunity to excel on their own,” said Franklin.
A letter of congratulations on the momentous occasion from Premier Rachel Notley said, “All Albertans are grateful for the service and sacrifice of our Canadian Armed Forces members past and present; your stories and courage will forever be remembered with profound respect, admiration, and appreciation.”
Congratulatory letters were also sent from the Lieutenant Governor, the Governor General, as well as best wishes from Her Majesty The Queen. Major Carl Cottrell said, “It’s truly a remarkable achievement to celebrate 100 years of comradery.”
“Canada’s national identity was forged on the battlefield. Freedom is something that has come at a tremendous price, and is something Canadians would do well to remember 365 days per year,” said MLA Dr. Richard Starke.
With plaques commemorating their 100th Anniversary, the County of Vermilion River and the Town of Vermilion each presented Legion President, Garry Zayac who thanked the committee and said, “I am honoured to be a member of one of the greatest organizations of Canada to serve veterans, our community, and Canada.”
Proceeds throughout the day went to support the restoration of the soldier’s plot at the Vermilion Public Cemetery. Guests went on to enjoy and evening dance with live music from the Royal Canadian Artillery band from Edmonton.