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Nov 1, 2006

As war veterans pass on, Ex-Services League looks ahead

Story PictureIt has been over sixty years since the end of the last truly global conflict, World War Two. But despite the lack of a single all encompassing armed struggle, our planet could hardly be called peaceful, as dozens of civil conflicts and border skirmishes continue to kill thousands of combatants and civilians alike. So it is for all those dead, in the hope of ending war forever, that today we wear a poppy, even in this quiet corner called Belize.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Belize Defence Force Deputy Commander Colonel Stephen Heusner inspecting veterans of the Belize Ex?Services League. The occasion was part of an official ceremony that launched the annual poppy appeal. It?s held each year in November to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World Wars One and Two.

Stephen Heusner, Deputy Commander, B.D.F.
?I think the respect for the dedication and the commitment. A lot of these people died for their country and for what is good in this world and we need to understand that.?

Eighty-two year old Rudolph Middleton was only twenty years old when he went into battle one year after he joined the army. Private Middleton was a sniper in the First Battalion North Caribbean Force who served in Italy between 1939 and 1945. Today he paid tribute to his fallen comrades.

Rudolph Middleton, Veteran, World War Two
?Well it is important because what they did was bring peace to the world. Life is something that no one wants to lose, but it is something that we got to do. A job that got to be done and we thank God for us who are still alive.?

But these former soldiers who are between the ages of seventy-nine and ninety-five, know that one day, they too will be laid to rest.

But as we remember those brave men and women who were killed in the battles to establish global peace, today the Belize Ex ? Services League is faced with a great challenge that is making sure there are enough members to carry on the organization?s work. Presently there are ninety-five surviving veterans but in the last two years thirteen members have died. Former B.D.F. captain and the League?s president, Bernard Adolphus, says they are concerned but do have a plan.

Bernard Adolphus, President, Belize Ex?Services League
?And I think it is only fitting that after the last man has gone down or passed away, then we have a ceremony and hand over this place to the keeping of the Belize Defence Force.?

Jacqueline Godwin
?You mean the last surviving member??

Bernard Adolphus
?The last surviving member, the last surviving member. For example, last year we lost about seven and so far this year is not finished yet and we have lost about six. That is why we are so light right now. So we are encouraging the Belize Defence Force to come in and assist because they will eventually … that is the goal … they will eventually, because their soldiers will need nurturing and their soldiers will need assistance.?

It is a responsibility Col Heusner says the BDF stands ready to shoulder.

Col. Stephen Heusner, Deputy Commander, B.D.F.
?The Belize Defence Force needs to have something like this for when our soldiers and officers retire. Eventually we will have to take over this responsibility at some stage. So we try to encourage our people when they come out to join the Ex-Servicemen League. So that they too can keep this organization going because if not once these gentlemen pass away it won?t be anymore. Most of the senior soldiers do have an interest in this organization. The younger ones right now that?s not their thing.?

Meanwhile, the public is being encouraged to support the poppy appeal. The funds raised are used to transport sick veterans, assist with burials, purchase medication and services.

Col. Stephen Heusner
?At least show some kind of respect for those people who have served. Give them the sort of encouragement?give those people who are still here some sort of encouragement to say that we understand and appreciate what you have done for us while you are out there.?

Bernard Adolphus
?And that?s why we have this showing today to appeal to the public to be generous to those men who have made that sacrifice. Some have gone but may have left family behind in some cases and if you notice we have quite a few people who are incapacitated, some are blind and some of them have other problems.?

For the first time on Remembrance Day a wreath with all the names of those veterans who fought and died in World War One will be laid at the Memorial Park.

The Remembrance Day ceremony takes place at the Memorial Park in Belize City on Sunday. The event gets underway at nine in the morning.

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