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Okotoks Legion member receives highest honour

Malcolm Hughes, member of the Okotoks Legion Branch #291, received the Palm Leaf Award, the highest honour a Legion member can achieve, on June 30.

An active member of the Okotoks Legion has been recognized with the highest honour of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Malcolm Hughes, chairman of the Okotoks Legion Branch #291, was presented with the Palm Leaf Award on June 30 in recognition of his dedication to veterans and Legion programs. After hearing the citation, a list of accomplishments and efforts put forward by Hughes over his years of service, the award-winner attributed much of his success to his wife.

“Without Jenny and her support I could never have done everything,” said Hughes. “It required a lot from me to pursue what I wanted to pursue, which was to help veterans.”

Having grown up in Yorkshire, England, Hughes had a front-row seat to the Royal Canadian Air Force in action during the Second World War and witnessed the sacrifice and dedication of Canadian soldiers. He often accompanied his father, who was an airfield maintenance worker at various RCAF bases, and got the chance to meet Canadian military members.

His experience during his youth prompted him to do something in return for the Canadian service people, and when he moved to Canada as a retired member of the British forces, he opted to help veterans through the Legion.

The hours of dedication to the programs and veterans were not unnoticed by his comrades.

“He always provides guidance with grace and no small amount of humour, and we can all attest to that,” said Karen Bruens, district commander for Alberta and current president of the Cochrane Legion Branch #15, who said she was honoured to present such a prestigious award to Hughes.

The Palm Leaf Award is given to a Legion member who has previously received the Meritorious Service Medal, which Hughes received while a member of the Turner Valley Branch #78. He was also given Life Membership while part of the Branch #71 Windemere District in Invermere, B.C.

“It recognizes further outstanding service by a member of the Royal Canadian Legion,” said Bruens.

She read citations from his previous awards, which noted his dedication to the poppy campaign and commitment to working with veterans, as well as his leadership and organizational merits.

Both in B.C. and Alberta, Hughes has been involved with youth sports teams, chaperoning track and field medal hopefuls to competitions at the national level.

“He’s an outstanding leader who has always given beyond the expectations of a member in office,” said Bruens.

One of the points in his citation for the Meritorious Service Medal, given while he was in Turner Valley, was his ability to expand the number of members able or willing to march on parade by providing training and practices, she said, adding the citation by fellow members read: “I have no doubt that given his willingness to help and teach, he may yet see us all be able to halt as a group in proper manner.”

The service medal nomination also recognized his development of a new-and-improved bursary program for youth, which was launched not only in Turner Valley but also in Olds, and is now in Okotoks and making its way to Cochrane.

All three citations mentioned Hughes’ commitment to the poppy campaign and Remembrance Day services, noting that along with his wife, Jenny, he completes an average of 24 to 30 hours of shifts during the campaign.

In 2012, Hughes decided to take on a new challenge and accepted the role of district commander, which he held until 2015, when he was elected to the position of command vice-president. He served only one year as vice-president before reluctantly stepping down due to cardiac issues and a planned surgery.

“That didn’t keep him down,” said Bruens.

The Okotoks citation noted Hughes didn’t skip a beat once he could return, and served as district commander once again from 2017 to 2019.

In the meantime, he was integral in creating the Okotoks Branch #291, which chartered in October 2014 after the town being without a Legion presence since 1993.

He has been chairman of the Okotoks Legion since 2014 and fulfils a host of other duties as a member of the club, including being a member of colour parties and even filling in as sergeant-at-arms when necessary, participating in visits to veterans in homes or hospitals, administering branch hospital passes, representing the Okotoks Legion at other branches, and staying in touch with widows and widowers of veterans to ensure they are looked after.

“This comrade is an excellent example of what a perfect Royal Canadian Legion member is,” said Bruens.

Krista Conrad,

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