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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Legion celebrating 90th anniversary on June 9th


by Sylene Argent

photo submitted

One June 9, the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201), will celebrate 90-years of service to the community and support of local Veterans.

  The Royal Canadian Legion originated after WWI by Veterans for Veterans, Erroll Caza said, who is the President of the Essex Legion. “In Essex, a small group of Veterans started up a group, supposedly held in several venues, until finally settling into its present location.”

  He said the Essex Legion officially received its Charter on June 9, 1931.

  Essex’s branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was named after Captain Brien, a doctor who served in WWI. There were 15 original members of the Essex Legion. Today, there are around 800.

  “Initially, the principle objectives of the Legion were to provide a strong voice for World War 1 Veterans and advise the government on Veterans’ issues. However, World War II brought an influx of new demands and the Legion increased efforts to help Veterans and returned service members, as well as those serving abroad,” Past President of the Essex Legion, Dan Gray, said of the Legion’s history at a past Remembrance Day ceremony.

  By the end of World War II, there were 15 Veterans’ groups, along with a number of regimental associations, representing former Canadian service members. In 1925, an appeal for unity made way for the formation of the Dominion Veterans Alliance. In November of that year, the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Gray further explained at a past Remembrance Day ceremony.

  “Throughout the years, the goals of the Legion have evolved with the times to ensure those that served and the thousands who have paid the ultimate sacrifice would always be remembered,” Caza said.

  For instance, in 1914, the population of Essex was approximately 1353. When WWI broke out, 198 of them signed a cheque, up to and including their lives,” Caza said during a past Remembrance Day ceremony. “Indeed, 32 of them had their checks cashed defending the freedoms for which they fought.”

  The Captain Brien Branch began its main membership with Veterans, however, membership now consists of all individuals of various walks of life, Caza said.

  “Every individual who joins, does so knowing that their allegiance is to Canada and to strongly advocate for Veterans, seniors, youth, and community. Captain Brien has close to 800 members, mainly non-Veteran. However, their collective support to Veterans in our area is second-to-none.” 

  The Legion provides strong supports for seniors and the youth within the community and the community of Essex as a whole. “However, [the Essex Legion’s] primary focus of advocating for Veterans and their families has been steadfast,” Caza said, adding there have been numerous Veterans of the Branch – in addition to Veterans who are not members – and their families, that have been supported by Veterans Affairs Canada through the members and volunteers of Branch 201.

  “Throughout the years, the Town of Essex and its leadership has afforded Branch 201 the opportunity to coordinate the annual November 11th Remembrance Day Ceremony, as this important day is a Civic event, not a Royal Canadian Legion event,” Caza commented, adding it was a combined effort of all in the area to achieve the outstanding monument, located adjacent to the Essex Municipal Building, where remembrance is traditionally held. “All should be proud and appreciative in our remembrance.”

  Members of the Essex Legion recognize the outstanding support from the community of Essex, towards its annual Poppy Campaign, which takes place leading up to the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies.

  “The monies received from businesses and individuals alike have greatly supported Veterans, mainly in our area, but also within the province,” Caza said.

  “As President of Branch 201, and a Veteran, I’m humbled and proud to be a member of such a strong membership, supporter of the community, and business of the town of Essex. We look forward to being able to celebrate with all, hopefully during Legion week in September.” 

  As the Captain Brien Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is coming upon its 90th Anniversary on June 9, celebrations will have to be on hold until later in the year. The Branch will host a take-out only Fish Fry, from 4 to 7pm, on Friday, June 11.

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