By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HAGERSVILLE—The motto of the Royal Canadian Legion is ‘to serve veterans and their dependants, to promote Remembrance, and to act in the service of Canada and its communities.’ This oath is one that Jim and Jody Yates of Townsend take to heart.
Jim and Jody have been involved in planning the town’s Remembrance Day celebrations since 1997, but they steadfastly refuse to take any credit for their efforts.
“This is about the veterans. We are honoured to have done what we’ve done all these years to honour them, with no credit to ourselves at all. We are honoured to do it,” said Jim.
Both Jim and Jodi have a military heritage in their families. Jodi’s mother, who just passed away recently, was a World War II veteran as a war bride.
“My mom and dad are both WWII veterans and Jim’s grandfather was a veteran in WWI, so this is how we ended up going to the Legion and taking on this responsibility,” said Jodi.
The Yates family would typically be very busy this time of year preparing for the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, but 2020 is shaping up a little bit differently.
“Normally we would visit sometimes 16 schools and nursing homes with our party, taking our message of Remembrance to the students and the seniors. We would have Vet Appreciation Night, we’d have town services. This year there really are no activities that are open to the public,” said Jim.
Although the services at the local cenotaph may be closed to the public, the Legion is working with local insurance company Nova Mutual to provide a livestream of the event for those who are looking for a way to participate on November 11.
“It’s for everyone. It will be accessible,” said Jodi. “People will be able to see our brief service at the cenotaph. There will be the naming of the fallen, singing O Canada, Jim doing the Last Post, and God Save The Queen at the end. Afterward, people can visit the Hagersville cenotaph where the wreathes will be laid out and people can pay their respects individually, but there can’t be any groups.”
Jim spoke about why it’s more important than ever to uphold our traditions in the face of the challenges 2020 has brought.
“We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifices of those 116,160 Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us. For their homes and friends and the traditions they cherished. For the future they believed in. They died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with us. Our collective national consciousness. Our future is their monument.”
Jim spoke about what the Legion stands for and why he is proud to serve as a member.
“The Legion in no way is promoting war or violence. We are about supporting veterans and veterans’ families. It’s a wonderful community.”
“If there is even a whisper of a veteran needing anything, they’re there. There are committees at the Legion on youth education, community outreach, and for the sick and the elderly. It’s amazing. One of our veterans, Wes McKeen, he came with us all the time to the nursing homes and marched with us. He ended up in Leisure Living and he was passing away and he was in his bed. We went there, and we marched the whole contingent into his room.”
Any Legion is a reflection of the community it supports, and there are many ways that you can support the Hagersville branch.
“You can make a donation, you can become a member, you can buy a poppy. That’s very important. Become a member. It’s not that expensive and you get to meet a lot of new people. There’s something about the Hagersville Legion, we have a lot of young people too. Some of the older Legions haven’t embraced a lot of younger people coming in, but we have embraced everybody,” said Jodi.
Although the many public servants who volunteer their time and efforts to the Legion will be quick to tell you they want no credit for what they do, they are also vital members of the community coming together to keep the doors open and welcome anyone into their warm environment. Honouring our veterans is not just about holding their memories dear, it is also about living lives full of vibrancy and meaning. By serving the community, our Legion members and volunteers are on the frontlines of preserving the enduring spirit that shone so brightly as our Canadian soldiers faced terrible odds and came out victorious time and time again over the course of our country’s history.
But don’t take our word for it, find out for yourself.
“When the outbreak is over, please come. We would invite your visit, we want you to see what’s happening. There are really good people who do a lot of good in the community as well as our veterans,” summed up Jodi.