Blackfalds resident and Lacombe Legion No. 79 member Neil Kennedy originally joined the Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF) to be a pilot.
“I never had been in airplane and I had never even seen one up close,” he said
In 1949, Kennedy, who was 17 at the time, told his mother he had enough of living the farm life in in rural Saskatchewan and that he was going to Aylmer, Ont. to join up. After completing boot camp Kennedy would continue train and work in Trenton, Ont. Kennedy would not end up being a pilot, but he would continue on with the RCAF in logistics.
In 1955, Kennedy was shipped to a NATO base in Germany where he would serve until 1959 as a Cold War peacekeeper during a time when the U.S.S.R was threatening NATO nations and Germany was split between a capitalist West Germany and a communist East Germany.
“We had a jet fighter airbase there and we did a lot of training to try to keep the Russians away. They were a big threat in those days,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t worry to much about it. There were transport planes there. if they attacked, I could get out of there.”
After finishing his service in Germany, Kennedy returned to Canada in 1959 — immediately joining the Legion in Whalley, B.C.
I just assumed that most of the veterans were at the Legion and my neighbour was a member. He took me down there and signed me up in 1959 after I got back from Germany. I have been a member for 62 years,” he said.
Kennedy said he has fond memories of Europe.
”I really love Germany and I went back a couple times. I wouldn’t mind going back again to see how it has changed. I have seen what the airbase looks like on the Internet and it has all changed,” he said
For Kennedy, joining the Legion just made sense given his and his family’s military service.
“My father and uncles were all members of the Legion and people I communicated with were all part of the Legion. I was happy with all of that. There were so many things I could volunteer for, like sports programs,” he said.
Kennedy continued with the RCAF serving in Whalley, Rivers, Man, St. Hubert, Que., Kamloops, B.C., and Inuvik, Nunavut where he retired from service in 1975.
Kennedy moved to Blackfalds in 2010 to live with his son. He originally signed on with the Red Deer Legion, before transferring to Lacombe in 2012. He is currently involved with poppy sales and takes part in the city’s Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.
“I do all my shopping in Lacombe, so I transferred to the Lacombe Legion and met a lot of nice people. I am quite happy there,” he said
Kennedy is disheartened to see that many Legions throughout the country are struggling to stay open and wants people to join up.
You don’t have to be an existing or past member to join. They will take anyone who wants to join. I encourage more people to join. That way, there wouldn’t be so many Legions dying out,” he said.
Kennedy will be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Lacombe starting at 8 a.m. with a community breakfast at the Legion. Ceremonies will be at the Lacombe Memorial Centre starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending around noon. The Legion will host a light luncheon at 12:30 p.m. and a community potluck dinner at 5:30 p.m.