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Remember the living as well as the dead on Remembrance Day

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Taking care of war veterans, then and now

Post by Guest on Sat 12 Nov 2016, 06:35

Taking care of war veterans, then and now

Saturday, November 12, 2016 2:03:53 EST AM

Ken Armstrong attends the annual Remembrance Day Service on Friday November 11, 2016 at Confederation Square in Peterborough, Ont. Hundreds attended the service to stand in honour of all who have fallen in the service of their country.

War is more present on these Remembrance Days than it was a decade or two ago.

Hundreds of people who gathered at the Cenotaph on Friday morning to honour the 11th hour of the 11th day could see that.

They could see aged veterans, men and women who came through the same era of service as Royal Canadian Navy veteran Harry Johnson, 94.

They could also see veterans young enough to be the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the last remaining few who fought so long ago.

They are veterans of conflicts in places smaller and more distant than Europe.

Those wars, or conflicts, or peacekeeping, or peacemaking missions are still being fought. The labels change but Canadian service women and men are putting their lives on the line in the Middle East. Soon, we are led to understand, they will be back doing the same in Africa and other troubled regions.

Is that what Canada and Canadians should be doing? Is this special time, Remembrance Day and the season of honouring soldiers who did their duty in the past, even an appropriate moment to ask that question?

Think back to what local veterans have said over and over again on Remembrance Day and the answer is yes, we should ask.

Many of them recall the bravery and special comradeship of service in battle. They also recall the wasted lives and shattered dreams. The women and children left widowed and orphaned when their friends and comrades didn't make it home.

Today we see those same awful effects, if on a smaller scale. We also see more clearly the damage done to soldiers who do come home. Canada turns its back on too many damaged heroes but can't shut out the reality of suicides and long-term trauma that follows soldiers home.

To properly honour all veterans, from every era, the nation they served must take care of veterans coming home now and those who have been home and struggling but are still neglected.

The Trudeau government also needs to think long and hard about the benefits of sending fighting troops overseas and the cost of doing so. Not so much the cost in dollars and cents, but in personal tragedy.

The costs are evident. The benefits are harder to identify.

Should foreign battles continue, the supply of veterans will never dwindle. And they will continue to be honoured for their service and sacrifice.

It's an honour greatly deserved, but one their comrades in history might say should be required only when the need to engage is almost impossibly extreme and the prospect of success is clear.

That too is something this nation should never forget.


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For many veterans, Remembrance Day ceremonies are too difficult to bear

Post by Guest on Fri 11 Nov 2016, 06:21

For many veterans, Remembrance Day ceremonies are too difficult to bear

Published Thursday, November 10, 2016 10:32PM EST

As Canadian veterans don pressed uniforms and polished medals this Remembrance Day, many others from more recent wars will be staying at home.
“Remembrance Day is rough,” veteran Jim Lowther of Halifax, N.S., told CTV News. “It is a tough day for me.”
After 15 years of military service, which included two tours in Bosnia, Lowther now suffers from PTSD. Despite pressures to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, most years he just stays home.

“It’s the crowds and noises… it’s really tough.”
Aaron Bedard barely survived his tour in Afghanistan, when an anti-tank mine left him with traumatic spine and brain injuries. Despite coming from a long line of Canadian Armed Forces veterans, he only began to understand the pain of November 11th after he served.
“That day, reminding you of people who you saw get killed, friends you lost -- for a lot of us, it is more than they can bear,” the Chilliwack, B.C. resident told CTV News.
Bedard now hosts an online video podcast where he advises and advocates for veterans. But when Remembrance Day arrives, Bedard and his veteran friends often prefer to escape.
“Get out into nature… go do some fishing, go climb a mountain… go do something positive for themselves," Bedard says he advises them.
Missing Remembrance Day events may cause some guilt, but attending can also often lead to unwanted flashbacks and debilitating pain, one expert says.
"They are going to struggle the rest of that day, the coming week, perhaps the rest of the month," Dr. Greg Passey, a veteran and a psychiatrist told CTV News.

Veteran Jim Lowther of Halifax, N.S., speaks to CTV News.

Poppies themselves -- the symbol of remembrance -- can also serve as triggers for those who served in places like Afghanistan.
"We were walking through poppy fields, being shot at," Cpl. David McDonald of The Royal Regiment of Canada recalled in an interview with CTV News.
To many, those fields -- used by the enemy to produce opium and heroin -- brought only fear and death.
Despite counselling and support, McDonald, still isn’t ready to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony.
"I have my own way to remember my buddies," McDonald said.


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Remember the living as well as the dead on Remembrance Day

Post by Guest on Fri 11 Nov 2016, 06:13

Remember the living as well as the dead on Remembrance Day


Published on: November 11, 2016 | Last Updated: November 11, 2016 1:00 AM PST

Visit the Canadian government’s website honouring veterans' sacrifices and you’ll be hard-put to find any reference to those who were wounded rather than killed.

Across this vast nation, from Vancouver to Saint John’s and from Whitehorse to Winnipeg, Canadians gather today at cenotaphs large and small to remember the more than 128,000 men and women who have lost lives in service to this country.

Nurses, air crew, naval and merchant seamen, infantry and engineers will all be remembered again — this marks the 97th such ceremony since the first was established by King George V in 1919.

Remembrance Day is always a sombre occasion of hymns, prayers, thanksgiving, memorial recitations and the laying of funerary wreaths. Yet it’s always a bittersweet moment, too, suffused with the gratitude of the living for the enjoyment of lives we are able to pursue in freedom because of those immense and noble sacrifices.

And yet perhaps we have a duty to broaden our remembrance.

For every Canadian slain, many more were wounded. Although it’s difficult to establish with precise accuracy, it appears that at least 230,000 veterans have suffered known and identifiable wounds. However, visit the Canadian government’s website honouring veterans’ sacrifices and you’ll be hard-put to find any reference to those who were wounded rather than killed.

Perhaps that’s because it is easier to memorialize the dead than the living. After all, the dead ask nothing of us except remembrance. The living testify to our ongoing obligations to those we ask to go into harm’s way on our behalf.

Only recently has the medical profession begun to understand the extent of unseen wounds like post traumatic stress disorder that sometimes aren’t easily discerned and can even mask themselves in other symptomatic behaviours. Yet a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that of the more than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members deployed to Afghanistan, many of them part-time reservists, 13.5 per cent suffered a mental disorder attributed to the mission.

And a report earlier this fall by Canada’s military ombudsman says without equivocation that we are falling short in how we respond as a supposedly grateful nation to the needs of forgotten veterans — those who serve, suffer and survive.

Each year, the ombudsman reports, about 5,500 members are released from the Canadian Armed Forces, almost a third of them for medical reasons. But the ombudsman says too many ill and injured military servicemen and servicewomen are released before they even know the federal government services and benefits for which they are eligible. And then, disabled veterans are subject to blizzards of paperwork and must negotiate an opaque and insensitive bureaucratic maze.

So, we wind up with the national disgrace of people who have been wounded in the service of their country left beset by stress, dependent upon the charity of friends and, in some cases, even losing their family homes because they can’t make mortgage payments.

Today is not the moment for laying political blame. It is a day for remembering that in addition to our gratitude to the slain, we have important duties to our living veterans. One of the things we should remember is our duty to hold ourselves — and the people to whom we delegate the responsibility to govern — to full account for those obligations once the final notes of The Last Post have dwindled for another year.


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