Frank Hawboldt, now 75, first joined the Legion in 1963 while stationed in Gagetown, N.B.
“It was discovered that ladies appeared at the local branch of the Legion in Fredericton most Fridays and Saturdays, so we thought we’d go in.”
He and his friends were met at the door by what Hawboldt called “a couple of really old dogs” who told them they couldn’t enter until they were members of the Legion, even when they were in full uniform. It was affordable at the time, but something else sealed the deal for him.
“They said, ‘if no one else cares when it comes time for you to leave the planet, we will. And we’ll wrap you in an old army blanket and send you off to where soldiers are quite comfortable. Well, what can you do with that? You have to take that deal, so we did, and I’ve never looked back.’”
Now he is the membership chair for the Saanich Peninsula Legion Branch, and he does it to remind the next generation of the sacrifices made by veterans and their families.
“The Legion provides a port in almost every storm, and it’s obviously a familiar place for anyone that’s military.”
The Saanich Peninsula branch on Mills Rd. is quite small, so they are only open on Saturdays.
“It’s a time to reflect and a time to remember. And having served almost 30 years in the military in medical services, you meet a lot of people and of course you lose a lot of people.”
Hawboldt spent 28 years in the Canadian military from 1961-1989, serving during a remarkable period of change for the Canadian Forces. Among many career highlights, he served as a preventative medicine technician in the Six-Day War and traveled to Denmark for joint exercises to prepare for a potential war with the Soviets.
While earlier soldiers were taught to always shoot to kill, Hawboldt noticed a shift in the middle of his career.
“It’s so easy to get into a mindset that your enemy needs to die, as opposed to, maybe your enemy needs to be redirected.”
The objective, he said, was not to create Rambo-effect with warriors, but rather to align them with a peacekeeping aspect or rationale.
Hawboldt wants more younger vets to join the Legion, but notes that anyone can join, whether they are a veteran or not. He thinks that social media should make it easier to spread the message, but he still thinks more people should know about the horrors of war.
“Nov. 11 calls upon us to remember those of us who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and that’s extremely important because history has a way of repeating itself.”
When any aspiring soldier asks him for advice on what to expect, his answer is that “your career will be far different from mine. You’ll be called upon to do things quite different from what I was asked to do, but you’ll thoroughly enjoy it because you do it in service of your country.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously described a meat draw held in co-operation with the Army, Navy, & Air Force Veterans Unit 302 (ANAVETS). In fact, they hold separate meat draws.