October 30, 2015 12:45 pm
Updated: October 30, 2015 3:43 pm

Poppy drive highlights changing face of Canada’s veterans

WATCH ABOVE: Today, the last Friday in October, marks the official launch of this year’s poppy drive. Kelly Greig was at the launch at Alexis Nihon Plaza in Westmount and met young veterans with incredible stories.

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MONTREAL – Warrant Officer Brent McNair joined the army at 21.

After two tours of duty in Afghanistan, he now truly appreciates all the poppy stands for.

“Before it was something we always did in school and we always knew why we were doing it but now there’s a much greater significance for me,” he said. “I’ve known people that have lost their lives in recent conflicts so it has much more importance to me now.”

Veterans of all ages were on hand at the Alexis Nihon Plaza for the official launch of the Poppy Campaign.

Many crowded the table thanking them for their service.

As Canadian military operations continue around the world these are the modern day veterans.

Incoming Liberal MP Marc Garneau received one of the first poppies and he highlighted the importance of remembering recent conflicts.

“It’s is not just the elderly, veterans from the Second World War. It’s important to recognize many people of all ages serve our country,” he said.

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Coming back from the battlefield can be difficult and that is something Eric Washburn knows first hand.

After a tour of duty in the Middle East he returned to Montreal to study at Vanier College.

“My first day of classes I was holding onto my desk like it was flying,” he said. “I couldn’t take the atmosphere of being in a classroom full of much younger students. I was 24 at the time so to be surrounded by 17-year-olds who had just come out of high school I felt out of place.”

He’s one of the founders of the Concordia Veterans Association.

They estimate there are nearly 300 former and current military personnel attending Concordia.

The group is designed to ease the transition from the field of combat to the classroom.

“Many find it overwhelming to go from combat atmospheres right back to school and it can be stressful for those who aren’t used to winding back down to that civilian lifestyle,” said Washburn.

No matter what their age, men and women wear a poppy in remembrance of all of Canada’s military missions.

Poppies are available on a donation basis until November 11th.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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