Prince Albert legion facing challenges with poppy campaign, Remembrance day services amid COVID-19 pandemic

This year marks the 75th anniversary of when the Second World War ended

Car poppies, pins, wreaths, and bracelets are available to purchase at the Prince Albert legion (Kelly Skjerven/Daily Herald)

The Prince Albert legion is coming up with alternative ways to remember those who served in the military.

This year’s memorial is a special one given that it’s the 75th anniversary of when the Second World War ended. 

Rick Hodgson, president at the legion, said this year’s services will be a lot smaller compared to what they are used to. 

“We’re just going to do just a small little thing amongst probably our couple of guys with the flag and laying of the wreath, and speak a few words and that would be it for the service. It’s just really hard, we can’t really do (anything),” said Hodgson, whose father was a Second World War veteran.

Active member and Sgt. Gerald Minielly said he’s also finding it difficult not being able to show remembrance on the same scale as previous years.

“I struggle with not being able to show some sort of act of remembrance with COVID going on and that’s not just with World War One (and) World War Two but everything that has come after that, between Korea, peacekeeping, (and) Afghanistan to remember the friends that I had that lost their lives over there,” said Minielly. 

Minielly has been with the army reserves for over 16 years and deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 on the 1st Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Currently, he is an active member of B company of the North Saskatchewan Regiment in Prince Albert.  

Changes to poppy campaign

The legion also had to make changes to how they would run their poppy campaign this year with COVID-19 cases on the rise. 

Colin Riese, poppy and wreath chair at the legion decided with an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region, he wouldn’t have volunteers sitting at a table with poppy trays at local stores and businesses.  

“I didn’t want to put any of my volunteers at jeopardy,” Riese said. 

Poppy trays will still be out at local businesses around the city and car poppies, wreaths, bracelets, and pins will be available for purchase at the branch which is open Tuesday to Saturday. 

“We appreciate any store (and) business that has graciously accepted a tray and it’s going to mean so much this year. I’m sure the donations are going to be down but with the generosity of the people of the city I’m sure we’ll get through it,” Riese said. 

Poppy campaign money is for veterans and doesn’t go towards the legion unless it’s something that helps veterans, like an elevator or accessible doors, said Hodgson. 

“That’s the biggest thing – I think a lot of people’s understanding is that the poppy money is for the legion but the poppy money and campaign stuff strictly goes to the poppy campaign and that money is kept in a separate account and it only goes to help veterans that are in need,” Hodgson said. 

Riese said that recently poppy campaign funds went towards Leave the Streets Behind and Paws for Veterans. 

Leave the Streets Behind is an organization that assists veterans in immediate need with things such as housing, utility bills, and gas money to get to appointments, said Riese.

PAWS for Veterans provides service dogs to veterans.