Every year on Remembrance Day, I am reminded of two things: That there are some very brave and selfless people out there, and that the Remembrance Day ceremonies do not bring much solace to those who were injured while serving and are left at the mercy of a system that creates additional stress.
A few days ago, a soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan came forth with his story of grief.
Cpl. Shane Jones has been working with seven or eight caseworkers and has been visiting multiple doctors since his injury happened during his 2005 tour. He suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder like many other veterans — and, like many others, feels betrayed by the government.
It is sad and disheartening to hear, yet he is one of many veterans who are not getting appropriate care and consideration for their service.
There are also debates around the financial compensations for injured veterans.
A group of ex-soldiers is suing the government over the new compensation system, arguing that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A lifetime disability pension has been replaced by a lump-sum payment, a decision that has angered many.
Previous governments have taken pride in providing for veterans, recognizing the sacrifice of the wounded as a great service to the Crown. Our present government argues that promises made in the past should not be binding.
While debate flourishes, injured veterans are left, more or less, to their own devices. Some injuries are more visible than others, but all war-inflicted injuries are debilitating and take their toll on soldiers and their families.
Once a year, some of the veterans are called upon to share their story and make some of their stories known to the public. Many details are left out because they are too gruesome to share or too painful to recall.
After the wreaths are laid and the poppies are forgotten, stories are set aside for another year and the wounded veterans are back to fighting their private war.
On top of it, they have to worry about a Veterans Affairs minister who expands the definition of a veteran to the point of making it look ridiculous.
Minister Julian Fantino’s words, “… I spent 40 years in law enforcement, I too have served. I’ve been in the trenches and heard the guns go off. I guess I can also put myself and other colleagues, firefighters and other police officers, who put themselves in harm’s way every day, in the same category …” has earned him a resignation request from angered Canadian veterans.
I don’t discount the courage and dedication of firefighters and police forces; they should be honoured for their own sacrifice in serving the people of this country, too.
Some could argue that the Canadian military service is volunteer and so is deployment. But, no one goes to fight a war in their own name. Every soldier deployed by Canada is a soldier of Canada, and his or her sacrifice should be properly acknowledged.
By acknowledging them, we to teach our children that putting one’s life on the line in the name of your country is something that is honoured — not only by citizens, but also by a government that stands true to the core values of a nation honouring its fallen heroes and veterans.
A definition by an unknown author on the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association website reads: “Simply put, a veteran, whether regular or reserve, active or retired, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank cheque made payable to ‘The Government of Canada,’ for an amount of ‘up to and including’ his life. That is honour. Unfortunately, there are too many people in this country who do not understand it.”
Lest we forget, the freedom and peace we enjoy are a gift from today’s and yesterday’s veterans, to each of us, every day.
Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday November 9, 2013