At 102 years old, Royal Canadian Air Force veteran Alward M. Gammell has a lot to reflect on. Among the many testaments to his loyalty and tenacity is a 50-year membership to the Royal Canadian Legion. Last week, to celebrate his semi-centennial commitment, Gammell received an honorary membership card.
Of course, Gammell’s honorary membership wasn’t simply left for him in the mail. The award was hand-presented by several representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion at the Saanich Peninsula Hospita where Gammell currently lives.
In attendance to celebrate the event were Mary Truttman who serves as the Saanich Peninsula Branch President, and Frank Hawbolt, the current Membership Chair.
Those in attendance reflected on the fact that Gammell paid his first membership dues way back in 1969. Gammell was praised for his unflinching support for the legion.
The Royal Canadian Legion supports veterans of Canada’s various protective forces, from the Royal Canadian Air Force to the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The organization consistently voices the concerns of veterans to the Canadian government. They also support research that benefits veterans, including a $1 million donation to Canada’s first-ever brain-imaging machine which will help researchers investigate post-traumatic stress disorder. Gammell’s yearly membership to the legion has helped make efforts like this possible for half a century.
Gammell’s 50-year commitment to the legion is not the only testament to his constancy. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the age of 24 in August 1940 and served until January 1967. He spent most of his career in British Columbia at the Canadian Forces Base Comox.
Although details of his service are mostly unknown, the period 1940-1967 was a turbulent time for Canada and the world. Although his service was primarily in British Columbia, the Second World War and the rising stakes of the Cold War surely weighed heavy on Gammell and others serving at the time.
In the same year that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, Gammell submitted his first of at least fifty annual memberships to the Royal Canadian Legion.
Coincidentally, Gammell was awarded his honorary membership on Vimy Ridge Day. The annual observance of Vimy Ridge Day reminds all Canadians of their countrymen who fought in northern France at the Battle of Vimy Ridge between April 9-12th, 1917. The Canadians were victorious in the battle, but at the cost of over 10,000 Canadian soldiers killed or wounded.
Gammell’s half-century long commitment to his legion and the celebration of his fifty-year membership were even acknowledged by the Royal Canadian Legion National Headquarters who thanked him on Facebook.
Over 30 people commented on the original Facebook post to thank Gammell for his service, and it has since been shared 138 times at the time of writing. A similar post on Twitter, also from the national headquarters, received 15 retweets and 43 likes at the writing.
Clearly word is spreading of Gammell’s commitment to the Royal Canadian Legion and his service to the country. Appreciation is also spreading, with Mary Truttman, Frank Hawbolt, and other legion representatives celebrating Gammell’s commitment and his life.