The global COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the execution of Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country – including plans facilitated by Branch 265 in Aldergrove.
President Doug Hadley confirmed spectators will be discouraged from attending in person, due to the limited space and requirement to physically distance – a decision he is certain will make for a very different type of ceremony.
Organizers will cap the Nov. 11th service at 40 people, meaning only participants integral to the program including the flag bearer, trumpeter, bagpiper, minister, legion president, and representatives from the military will be permitted.
Participants will additionally be required to remain two meters apart and will need to wear masks unless performing certain duties related to the ceremony.
Vice-president Karen Hobbis added that on a normal year, roughly 70 wreaths are placed at the cenotaph in Aldergrove to honour local Veterans.
This year, only seven wreaths will be laid prior to the service.
“Ribbons will be wrapped around each one to signify who they are in honour of,” Hobbis noted, inviting interested families to speak to the legion on how Veterans can still be honoured in lieu of a personalized wreath.
The Royal Canadian Legion announced restriction guidelines for local branches in early September, stating no Veteran’s or Canadian Armed Forces parades could commence or no wreath bearers or Junior Rangers and Cadets could be present.
Danny Martin, national ceremony director of the legion, said the importance of a live ceremony honouring Veterans is considered paramount by the Legion, especially during the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
“At a time when we have all been isolated for months by the pandemic, ensuring the symbolism of the Legion and community leaders paying homage to our Veterans is more important than ever,” Martin explained.
The limitations are not a decision Hadley takes lightly either. The legion president explained that this unusual restricted program is being carried out for everyone’s own safety; even Veterans for whom the day is meant to honour.
“Veteran invites are still up in the air,” Hadley noted.
The Aldergrove branch will be closing the parking lot on Remembrance Day to discourage and stop spectators from attending.
For those who are asked not to attend, the service will be live-streamed on the Aldergrove legion Facebook page.
People are invited, however, to visit privately between 12 to 4 p.m. to pay their respects after the service has been completed.
Hadley added the annual flypast by members of the Fraser Blues formation flying team will still commence.
Set to begin on Oct. 30 and run through to Nov. 10, poppy sales will almost exclusively be done by box sales at local retailers instead of in-person sales done by volunteers and Cadets.
”We still have pins, centre pins, and poppies for sale,” Hadley explained. “Those we’ll still be able to just sell across the bar at the legion.”
The Royal Canadian Legion will additionally be piloting electronic donation boxes at 250 locations across the country, allowing people to donate and receive a poppy with tap and pay technology.
Something new but fitting for 2020 will also be the sale of customized legion masks.
Hobbis explained that for $10 each, people can purchase specific branch 265 face-coverings or red maple leaf decorated non-medical masks with the legion logo later on in the month.
READ MORE: Legion distributes $16,000 collected from poppies to Langley care homes in need
Both Hadley and Hobbis acknowledged that 2020 has been hard on legions all across Canada.
Close to $20 million is annually donated during the national poppy campaign, and goes directly into supporting veterans.
While businesses are offering space to put a poppy box this year, Hobbis figures sales will only be one quarter what they regular are.
“We won’t even have our open house this year, which has a potluck and a band,” she said. “The building is usually wall to wall with people.”
While COVID restrictions have their hands tied, Hobbis invited people to stop by Branch 265 at 26607 Fraser Highway to donate, lend support, or simply visit.
The branch is closed Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but open on Tuesdays from 4 to 8 p.m., and Friday, Saturday, Sunday, from 1 to 7 p.m.
Additionally, the administration office is open Wednesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 604-856-5423.
Donations can be made digitally by visiting aldergrovelegion.ca.
The Aldergrove ceremony will take place between 10:50 to 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 11th.
Ceremonies in Murrayville, Langley City, and Fort Langley are all expected to hold services in a similar, restricted manner.
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