After the 1939-45 conflict, also known as the Second World War; in which member countries of the Caribbean then British colonial territories fought, some of those soldiers stayed in Britain, and benefitted from a newly formed Royal Commonwealth Ex- Services League. Those soldiers who elected to return home to their respective islands especially those who came from the working class, did not have the benefit of a welfare organization in place. An organization that later emerged however, represented only the elite of the armed forces; namely the Air and Naval services. The land or Infantry forces from which most of the working class soldiers were drawn, went largely ignored, unrecognized and neglected.
Before continuing, a misconception about whom or what a veteran is needs to be clarified. He, she or they are not limited to a person hobbling on a cane with profusely graying hair and a chest full of medals. Veterans are people whom have either enlisted or drafted and have served honorably. They may have done so, in combat, lessened hostility or relative peace time. They are not limited to World War I or II; but were and are involved in conflicts from the Korean War in the 1950s to Afghanistan and Iraq in the 21st century. Men and Women who risk and are prepared to risk and sacrifice their lives in the defense of the freedoms we enjoy, and take for granted are veterans; and in today’s context Ex-servicemen. We served and are here to serve. We are providing that bridge of service from active duty to civilian life in the care of our comrades.
Our fledgling organization is a continuum of the previous Ex- Royal Air Force, but with inclusivity; in that we are not limited to just ex-military, but also to the paramilitary, such as the ex-police, fire and nurses personnel. Additionally, there is also consideration for honorary members and persons whom may be sympathetic to our efforts. While we may have come out of a regimental or ranking structure, we are equals in the organization. Conscientious former servicemen came together in 2004, and after much deliberation and effort, were officially registered under the Friendly Societies Act of Antigua and Barbuda on May 11th 2010. We are currently engaged in an awareness, recruitment and fund raising campaign. Proceeds of our efforts will go towards the welfare of our sick and shut-ins and administration. One of the instruments of fund raising is the Poppy.
A Canadian Soldier from the First World War,(Physician: Colonel John McCrea, author of the poem in Flanders Field) was inspired to write that poem after he witnessed the dead among these flowers that carpeted the field at Flanders Belgium. The Poppy was subsequently adopted as the universally accepted symbol of sacrifice in the Commonwealth. Men have been dying in their thousands since the Napoleonic wars of the 18th and 19thcenturies, and again in the early 20th century on that particular field; namely Flanders. Those of you whom are old enough, may remember a Poppy Day, and it’s promotion in your school years.
November 11th, is the date set aside to commemorate the war dead of the Commonwealth in general, and the Caribbean and Antigua and Barbuda in particular. Please buy a Poppy in support of those selfless, courageous and gallant men and women who have sacrificed and continue to do so for our freedom.