Legion president Ray Deer will now represent the community’s veterans and eight others at the district level after being appointed vice commander. (Courtesy Ray Deer)
Go to any event honouring those who have served in the armed services on either side of the border, and you will likely meet Kahnawa’kehró:non Ray Deer.
Deer is president of the Royal Canadian Legion Mohawk Branch 219 in Kahnawake, and a staple at Remembrance Day ceremonies, educational presentations on past conflicts and anything else related to veterans affairs or the armed services in the region.
Deer was appointed District 13 – Chateauguay Valley vice commander April 15, and will now be responsible for representing veterans from the eight legion branches in that district from Hemmingford to Kahnawake to Ormstown to Lacolle.
The next stage up from the district is the provincial command, followed by the dominion command, which is the national body in Canada.
The district branch meets once a month and forwards any information from the national branch down to the individual legions, such as the one in Kahnawake.
Representing veterans is a passion for Deer, who was encouraged to become involved by former district vice commander and Kahnawake Legion president Eugene Montour.
“That was one thing that I wanted to do when I got out of the service,” said Deer.
“For me, it’s always been veterans’ awareness.”
Deer mentioned his involvement with Peter “Pitt” Jacobs in developing the mobile war museum, and the work he and other veterans do for Remembrance Day, as examples of how he’s tried to draw awareness to veterans’ activities in the past years.
With each decade, veterans of major conflicts pass away, as Kahnawake witnessed when the final Second World War veteran Angus Patton died in December 2016. Deer, Jacobs, and others want to ensure their legacy is continued.
“We want people to remember veterans, especially now that Vietnam veterans are slowly going away,” said Deer. “We lost all our World War II (vets), and who’s going to carry on that legacy if we didn’t have the legion, and we didn’t have the history to tell? Where would it go? It would diminish. It would be non-existent.”
In addition, Deer wants to inform younger generations about the service experience, and let anyone interested in signing up know there is support in the community.
“We want to make sure to go out there and tell them what we endured,” said Deer. “And for any younger generation that want to join the service like my son, we can give them information of how we went about it, what obstacles we encountered, which way we do things.