From the Legion to the sea and back again

Barry Stark canvassing poppies at an Ontario St. storefront in Beamsville
Royal Legion member Barry Stark canvasses poppies for Beamsville’s Legion Branch 612 at an Ontario St. storefront. Marks – Photo

By Tristan Marks
For NewsNow

Navy veteran Barry Stark’s warm demeanor contrasts against the brisk and overcast Nov. 2 afternoon.

He stands in his full Royal Canadian Legion uniform; from his naval beret to four medals across his chest and the bright red poppy against his navy blue jacket.

Stark is out to canvas poppies for Remembrance Day. He never asks anyone to come buy one, but people dutifully grab a flower after slotting a coin into the box he’s holding.

“We’re not supposed to solicit poppies,” he said with a chuckle.

“I just wait for them to come to me.”

A skilled storyteller, Stark passed some of the time by recounting story after story about his time in the Royal Canadian Navy.

“Most people probably wouldn’t be able to recognize any of these medals,” he said as he began explaining what they meant.

“This one here,” Stark said indicating to a blue ribbon with white trim, “I got from my service in the
Yugoslavian conflict.”

He explained that he was a ‘stoker’- a marine engineer- aboard the HMCS Halifax at that time.

Stark served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1975-2000.

“I was just proud to represent Canada, to be the first line of defense,” he said.

The only time Stark paused his otherwise easy conversation flow was to consider why he joined in the first place.

“Everyone has their own reason to join,” he said after pondering for a few seconds.

“I just didn’t want to be a GM employee, I wanted to be part of something important.”

He said he misses the camaraderie and brotherhood he had with his fellow servicemen.

“If you’re part of a group, you really unite with your friends there,” he said.

Barry Stark as a cadet in 1970.
Stark in a picture from a 1970 edition of the Lincoln Post in an army cadet uniform. His corps was sponsored by the Legion branch he would later join.

Missing that connection, Stark eventually joined the Royal Canadian Legion in 2005, fives years after he retired from duty, citing the need to bond with his “family”.

The legion he joined was Beamsville Branch 612. This was a homecoming of sorts in and of itself. Before enlisting in the navy, Stark spent his youth in the cadet corps sponsored by that very same legion.

“I was part of the original cadets at that same Legion,” said Stark.

“I did a full circle.”

Stark’s father was also in the navy, and he even had an uncle who fought on the
European mainland during the Second World War.

“They gave up a lot,” he said. “Every one of them went over there to help the security of our nation.”

Stark will be parade commander for the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Jordan Cenotaph on Friday, Nov. 8 and then again at the Beamsville Cenotaph on Sunday, Nov. 10.

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