The Prince Albert Legion launched their annual poppy campaign on Friday, presenting the first poppy to peacekeeper Corporal Michael Daniels of Prince Albert.
Daniels had the first poppy pinned on him by Legion member and veteran Marie Mathers.
Daniels, who is an rifleman at the Prince Albert Armoury was informed about the honour two weeks ago by last year’s first poppy recipient Ramsey Belisle. He was quick to accept and started getting his uniform ready.
“I’ve definitely filled out since I last wore these though so I had to go up a few measurements,” Daniels said.
“I was pretty happy. I’d never heard of the this type of deal, but I was honoured to have it.”
Mathers said picking Daniels to receive the first poppy was an easy choice. The Legion made the decision after Daniels attended the monument unveiling in Memorial Square on Decoration Day in June.
Daniels went to Latvia for a peacekeeping mission on Dec. 15, 2022. He was there for just about six months, returning on June 8 just four days before the monument unveiling.
Daniels said the mission was fulfilling.
“Me being only a corporal, I wasn’t anything in a leadership role,” he said. “I was just at dismount in the back of the LAVs. (Light Armoured Vehicles), just a M203 Charlie team, so sacrificial lamb. It was pretty enjoyable. I honestly really liked it.”
Daniels and his fellow Canadians worked alongside Spanish and German peacekeepers primarily. Slovenian and Slovakian troops were also present, although Daniels didn’t work as much with them.
Canadian peacekeepers were deployed to the country because of its proximity to Russia and Ukraine.
“What we were told was we’re going over there partially to get the familiar working with other countries. We also worked together with Latvians. Latvians are actually really nice,” Daniels said.
The deployment to Latvia was Daniels’ first. He has been told another one is coming to another country in the next year.
Daniels moved around quite a bit as a youth. He decided to serve after moving to Prince Albert from Pukatawagan First Nation in Manitoba.
“For me, when I moved here to Prince Albert the first time, I was like, ‘oh yeah, cool, I always wanted one day to join the army,’ but I thought it would be like 18, Grade 12. That was 16 at the time, I had my grade 10. Then I found out they had an armoury here in Prince Albert, so I was able to join up that way,” Daniels said.
He moved to Prince Albert when he was 14-years-old and is 25-years-old.
Mathers is also a veteran. She was one of four girls from her small town who could speak German, so she worked at prisoner of war camp in St. Jean Baptiste Manitoba during the Second World War.
This will also be Mathers last year in charge of the service.
The Remembrance Day ceremony will be moving back to the Prince Albert Amoury this year after being held outdoors since 2020.
“I’ve been doing it for 30 years. Like give a shake and put somebody else younger (in charge),” she said.
“I think it’s about time, you know. At 89. you need to have a little time to yourself, and it takes a lot of time. (It’s) a lot of phone calls, a lot of letters. Sometimes you phone a person may be five times before you get a reaction and it’s time consuming. Having been as active as I am, I don’t like to be sitting and waiting for a phone call.”
Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Russell Mirasty will also be in attendance. Mathers said that is the first time she can remember that happening.
“I’m looking forward for that,” Mathers said.
The public is asked to arrive by 10:20 a.m. and bring their own chair. At 10:55 a.m., the colour party will march on the colours, with the playing of the Last Post at 11 a.m. followed by a minute of silence.
This is followed by the Honour Roll, Act of Remembrance and Closing Prayer.
The Royal Canadian Legion in Prince Albert uses money raised from poppy sales to help veterans and their families who might be in need. They also make funds available if a reference comes from Saskatchewan Command.
The poppy was officially adopted in Canada in 1921 by the Great War Veterans’ Association, one of the predecessors of the Legion. They’re recognized as the national symbol of remembrance for Canadian men and women who gave their lives during military service around the world.