Dave Gordon, Marilyn Lawson-Dickinson, Cpl (ret'd) Kyle Scott, Former Dominion President Thomas D. Irvine, CD, Gen (ret'd) Walt Natynczyk, Sgt Craig Hood stand together holding their Dominion President Citation Awards.
On Saturday, August 7, 2021, Dominion President Citation Awards were presented to five extraordinary Legion members whose work on behalf of Veterans and their families is nothing short of outstanding.
The intimate awards ceremony was held at Branch 560 in Kingston, Ontario with National Executive Director Steven Clark opening the event. “Every day these people make the Legion better than the day before,” said Steven as he welcomed the recipients and guests.
Former Dominion President Thomas D. Irvine, CD handed out the awards and gave his personal remarks for each recipient.
First up was General (ret’d) Walt Natynczyk, recognized for his lifelong dedication to serving with and leading Canada’s military and his outstanding service to Veterans during his tenure as Deputy Minister, Veterans Affairs Canada (VA).
“We are partners that ensure those men and women and their families have the ability to cope moving forward,” said Walt, “It takes the entire community to help our Veterans and the Legion is an integral part of that.”
Tom then recognized Marilyn Lawson-Dickinson for her years of outstanding assistance to Veterans in helping them navigate their way to receiving VAC benefits. She was also recognized for her countless volunteer hours over many years at the Toronto Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) and helping Veterans wherever and whenever they are in need. “The more I hear about what Marilyn does, the more it impresses me,” said Tom. “She is one of the reasons I developed this award.”
Marilyn expressed her appreciation for Legion Service Officers across Canada. “We set up a support system with each other across the country,” she said.
“The work we have done with the Legion is phenomenal. I want to thank you for teaching me the things I need to know as a Service Officer.”
Tom recognized Corporal (ret’d) Kyle Scott for being Canada’s foremost “purveyor of medal acquisition services” and his continuing commitment to acknowledging the service of Canada’s Veterans by acquiring medals.
“The work Kyle is doing as the District Service Officer is incredible,” said Tom. “Kyle is the epidemy of a Legionnaire. His selflessness is remarkable. He is the future of the Legion.”
More than 350 Veterans, so far, who earned these decorations but were either unaware of their eligibility or had never received them, now have their medals. Kyle also advocates for Veterans and their rights as a District Service Officer. Furthermore, Kyle spends countless hours locating unmarked graves of Veterans. So far, 648 graves have been identified with proper markings.
“Thank you to the Legion for all the work that you do,” said Kyle. “I don’t know where our Veterans would be without you.”
Kyle went on to describe the struggles he faced when he got out of the army. “When I got out, I was pretty lost. I joined my local Legion Branch and went to a general meeting. I thought I was going to be one of those guys that were like “nope, I’m out.” But I decided that if I didn’t like it, then I could try to fix it. So, I worked my way to the head of the table. My branch and I ensure that we focus on supporting Veterans and their families first, before all else.”
Kyle also described what it is like working as a Legion Service Officer. “Being a Service Officer is a way to serve my own people. If there is a Veteran in crisis, we stay on the phone with them until we can fix it.”
Craig Hood is another Veteran who Tom recognized for his development and national coordination of the Op VetBuild program, along with the positive impact his exceptional efforts have had on the mental health and well-being of Veterans.
“I wanted to change some things for the Veteran community, so I joined the Ajax Legion Branch where everyone accepted a young Vet like me,” said Craig. “From there, in 2016, we developed the BSO Legion OSI Special Section which focuses on mental health support for Veterans. So far, 3500 Veterans took the mental health first aid course so they can support other Veterans in need.”
Op VetBuild is a program that was born out of the Legion OSI Special Section. It gets Veterans out of their home and in a social setting where they can talk to other Veterans. “It is Veterans building models but it’s also about Veterans building themselves,” said Craig. Op VetBuild is now in 27 Legion branches across Canada.
Last but certainly not least, Tom recognized Dave Gordon for his exemplary and unyielding work in helping establish the Leave the Streets Behind homeless Veterans program in Ontario. He was also recognized for turning it into a national program. “Dave’s program is one of the best programs the Legion has to offer and exemplifies the meaning of the Legion,” said Tom.
Dave explained that his team started with pennies in their pockets and grew it to a $2.7 Million dollar program that has helped over 2000 homeless Veterans across Canada. “One homeless Veteran is far too many,” said Dave.
The Royal Canadian Legion thanks these five extraordinary individuals for their outstanding service.
If you would like to join the Legion and get involved at your local branch, you can sign up online here!
Veterans who have not yet joined the Legion can sign up for a free one-year membership through the Veteran Welcome Program.