Over a hundred military veterans and widows of veterans currently reside in Jamaica whose sole form of support is the responsibility of the Jamaica Legion. Each year the Legion, an affiliate of the Royal Commonwealth Ex Services League formed in 1949, promotes the National Poppy Appeal to encourage donations for poppies from the first Sunday in October to November 11. This year’s activity was launched by His Excellency, The Most Hon. Sir Patrick Linton Allen, ON, GCMG, CD, KSt. J, Governor General of Jamaica, on Sunday 3 October
The poppy with its vibrant blood red colour, has endured since the first World War, as the symbol of remembrance of the sacrifice made by military personnel, many of whom died in World War I and II, as well as subsequent military operations. It’s also a symbol of hope for a peaceful future, having endured and flourished even in the war churned soil on the Western Front. First sold in Britain in 1921 to raise money for the support of ex-servicemen and the families of those who had died in the conflict, the Poppy Red continues to be the internationally recognized symbol of the sacrifice given by military veterans
During the 45-minute virtual National Poppy Appeal launch, the Governor General explained, “The National Poppy Appeal encourages all Jamaicans to remember and show appreciation for the sacrifices of those who were killed or physically or psychologically maimed, while securing their Nation’s interest. The poppy symbolizes both their sacrifice as well as our appreciation. Our soldiers have, and continue to serve Jamaica’s national security interest with distinction over the years, but many of them have become indigent and destitute and it is our duty to remember their sacrifices and to support them”.
Traditionally the majority of poppies were distributed through the school system where students, parents and teachers would make donations in return for a poppy. Additionally poppy collection tins could be seen in various offices and retail locations across the island. However, COVID-19 forced the Legion to think outside the box and come up with new ways to reach a wide cross section of potential donors. During the launch Lieutenant Colonel Warrenton Dixon, Chairman of the National Poppy Appeal, expressed his satisfaction with the new initiatives introduced in 2020 and which will continue as the main projects for the 2021 appeal.
“We will again deploy our Poppy Patrols, which consist of small teams of soldiers, daily to prominent town centres island-wide, over a period of five weeks beginning 04 October 2021, along with our Step for Vets walkathon on November 4, that will consist of soldiers walking to major town centers across the island. In both cases, the teams will raise awareness about the significance of the poppy and solicit donations towards the national fund.”
While the official end of the Poppy Appeal is traditionally November 11, the 2021 period will climax with a highly anticipated virtual concert dubbed Veterans For Veterans (Vets for Vets) on Saturday 13 November. It will feature some of Jamaica’s iconic performers including Agent Sasco, Bounty Killer, Tarrus Riley, Jermaine Edwards with more to be added. The virtual platform opens the fund-raising efforts to a global audience, which in turn allows Jamaicans all over the world, to not only enjoy this event, but also to be able to donate to the cause. “We call on our Jamaican family in the Diaspora to help us to reach our target’, expressed Colonel Dixon, “Vets for Vets will be free to view, however we are asking for a donation. It takes on average US$6500 to care for one indigent veteran for the year, and each donation, no matter the amount, will certainly take us one step closer to achieving our goal. Donations are welcomed all year.”
The call to the Diaspora also goes out to the Jamaican ex-soldiers across the globe to join forces with the local chapter. The effort has already been adopted by the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association (JESA) UK who will host a British spin-off of the Vets for Vets concert, dubbed “Blessed for Vets”. This will be a live gospel concert to be staged on 30 October in Birmingham, England. Funds raised during this effort will become part of the National Appeal. JESA also staged their own Step for Vets in the summer of this year and will repeat that effort in 2022.
Other activities outside of the Poppy Appeal period in 2020 included a car raffle which gained huge support from local and overseas donors. The Legion plans to have a second edition of the raffle in 2022.
The target for the National Poppy Appeal for 2021 is US$100,000. Funds will go towards accommodation, food, medical care, and other routine expenses required to care for the indigent military veterans. These include those accommodated at the Curphey Home in Manchester, as well as others who reside outside of Curphey Home, and the widows of veterans.
Jamaica will also join the world in remembering and honoring the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in the World Wars and other later conflicts, by observing a moment of silence at 11 AM on 11 November , and the Jamaica Legion invites all Jamaicans across the world to join us in this tribute.
The Poppy Appeal runs from now to November 11. Donations can be made starting immediately to Bank of Nova Scotia, Cross Roads Branch, Branch/Transit: 80135, Account #: 20492. This account can be accessed through Western Union. Additional donation portals will be announced in the coming weeks. To join and participate in the cause, repost and share from @JDFsoldier on Facebook and Instagram and be sure to use the hashtags #Icare4vets and #lestweforgetjm. Check out YouTube.com/c/poppyappealjamaica and for more information WhatsApp 876-322-0235 or email [email protected].