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News - Poppy Campaign - 3 Nov 2016

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Poppy Campaign: 3 Nov 2016
Kitchener-Waterloo Poppy Fund launch brings memories

Poppy campaign 2016/ Samantha Beattie Photo/ Legion Branch 412 president Stan Howie (centre) presents the first poppy of 2016 to Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky (left).

The HMCS Claquat was one of the first ships out of Halifax on Christmas Eve in 1944.

It was the ship Waterloo native Jack Gough’s friend was stationed on. It was the ship hit and sunk by a German u-boat torpedo.

Gough, now 92, was lucky enough to be on the HMCS Transcona minesweeper, further back in the convoy of ships setting out to sea that day. Unlike his friend, he survived Christmas Eve 1944.

“I lied about my age. I was 17 years old when I tried to join the military,” said Gough. “I was caught, but two weeks later I turned 18 and was asked to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy.”

A longtime service officer with the Kitchener Waterloo Naval Association, Gough was at the K-W Poppy Fund kickoff last Friday.

All these years later, he can easily recall his duties as a signalman, raising flags and flashing lights to send messages to allied ships. To keep these memories alive, he and a group of cadets distribute poppies in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.

At least 200,000 poppies are distributed locally every year, said Jim Meyer, chairman of the K-W Poppy Fund. From the donations collected, the fund supports members of seven veteran service clubs with hospital equipment and bursaries.

Rev. Bruce Sweet spoke about the importance of the campaign to a small crowd gathered outside the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 530.

“May we always be mindful all life is sacred,” said Sweet. “May we never forget the service and sacrifice of all those who have and who continue to serve. Now from here we go to distribute these poppies that serve as remembrance.”

Gough, navel association president Mike Edwards, poppy fund treasurer Jim Fraser and sergeant-at-arms Steve Mann switched out the Canadian flag for the Remembrance Day flag, which will fly above the legion for Nov. 11.

Fraser, 73, is looking forward to playing the Last Post for the legion’s ceremony, as he’s done every Remembrance Day since he was 16.

It’s his way of thanking his grandfather who fought in the First World War, and other veterans like Gough.

Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Kitchener acting Kitchener Mayor Zyg Janecki and Regional Chair Ken Seiling were presented with the first poppies of the 2016 campaign.

Volunteers from the Canadian Army Veteran Gulf-Kuwait Motorcycle Unit closed the ceremony with a revving of their bikes as they set off to visit veterans at retirement homes across the region.

Poppies will be available until Remembrance Day, with cadets and veterans from K-W branches out in full force.

The Remembrance Day ceremony in Kitchener has been moved to Carl Zehr square due to construction.

Samantha Beattie is a reporter with the Waterloo Chronicle. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter

Waterloo Chronicle By Samantha Beattie/AA

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