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Fresh faces on the Remembrance Day front

November, 2010

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily peg Brent McNair, 27, for a war veteran – especially when paired with Leslie Newman, a gentleman who served in the Royal Montreal Regiment for 32 years.

But that’s exactly the sort of perception McNair is trying to banish, and one of the reasons he is volunteering at the poppy tables during his last two weeks of vacation before returning to service.

McNair is decorated with the General Campaign Star for his service in Afghanistan, where he recently spent seven months and is soon to return.

“I volunteer my time and swap stories with the other veterans,” he says. McNair recognizes the importance of the legion for veterans and their families. “It’s extremely important for young people to know that this organization is for us, too. I want to break the misconception that the legion is only for veterans of WWII,” he says.

Collin Robinson, Sarah Anvari and Bill Thibeault on lower level of Alexis Nihon. Photo: Barbara Moser

“The WWII veterans had trouble with going to the legion because they thought their experiences were too different from the soldiers of WWI. Now the veterans of our current war feel the same way; but really it’s all the same thing.”

Leslie Newman, who came all the way from St. Eugene, Ontario, is volunteering at the tables outside IGA at Alexis Nihon Plaza this year for the first time in 32 years. “I’m retired and my wife decided I needed something to do,” he says, laughing. “I’ll probably do about 40 to 50 hours of volunteering from now until November 10.

“Remembrance Day has changed since the war in Afghanistan has made veterans of young soldiers. More people are remembering.”

Colin Robinson, a decorated veteran and vice-president of Branch 14 of the Royal Canadian Legion was at Alexis Nihon on October 29 selling poppies alongside his more senior colleagues.

“It’s so important to remember the sacrifices that have been made, and the ones presently being made by Canadian soldiers,” he says. “For only one day a year we have to remember those who lost their lives for our freedom. These donations fund local veterans who need the money.”

Robinson says that when people ask him how much a poppy costs, he responds: “How much does your freedom cost?”

At 39, Robinson can boast 20 years of experience in the Canadian military. “People have a misconception of veterans, they’re not all old,” he says, chuckling. Robinson served in a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia 15 years ago. But he says he believes that people who think that Canadian troops are solely peacekeepers are misled. “We are quite successful in battle – 628,736 Canadian soldiers served in World War I when the population of Canada was only 6 million,” he says. “Ten per cent of those troops gave their lives for Canada.”

No soldier today is forced to enlist.

Concerning poppy sales in Dorval, where two malls limited the sales on their grounds to three days instead of the usual two weeks, Robinson says it’s a misunderstanding.

“The media has skewed the story to make people think that all centres do not support Remembrance Day. Alexis Nihon has been very supportive. They gave us access to the whole mall.”



At November 11, 2011 at 5:05 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice photo Colin. You do the family proud as all of our family has.


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