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Murray Scott of Edmonton, Alberta, often comments on Homecoming Vets posts, so I have invited him to talk about his deepest concerns for our veterans. He began his military career as a cadet, went on to join the army and severely injured his back in a special training mission. Over the years VAC has treated him well, but he is very concerned about today’s young veterans. BONNIE


by Murray Scott, Edmonton, Alberta
Being human carries with it traits and characteristics that we have in common with each other, and by which we live and function every day of our lives. Over the last few days, I have been reading stories about veterans’ returning home from WWII and what that experience was like for them as compared to our modern-day veterans returning home from war-torn Afghanistan or our many peacekeeping missions around the world.

When soldiers of any generation are asked to put their lives on hold and fight for a cause, which they may or may not agree with, this action becomes a life-altering and perhaps threatening event. Every aspect of being human as they know and understand it becomes challenged. We ask our soldiers to forget who they are and, in some cases what they are, to blindly do our bidding on behalf of our culture and country. These brave young men and women transform their lives at one level or another from being human within our peaceful country to being a “human doing” without question all that is asked of them.

As a country, we compel these soldiers to de-humanize and put those characteristics that bind us together as a caring and peace-loving nation aside; we demand that they take up arms against those who have a different way of living life than we do. As a nation, we give our government the power and direction to thrust our soldiers into harm’s way; believing and righteously justifying at some level of understanding that, if we do not send them into action, our culture and society and even our children as we know them will be at risk.

There are those of us who believe it is our obligation as a country, invited or not, to protect those that cannot protect their own culture and predetermined way of life. It is this gut-wrenching sense of protection that unites the fire in our bellies. After all, being human means we tend to have an innate desire to protect the helpless and those who are vulnerable to the atrocities of their own powerful and corrupt governments.

Please understand, I am not writing about the why of war; I’m concerned about what we task our soldiers to do for us as a loving, caring and responsible country. Collectively, we demand our young warriors to set aside their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even their families, friends, sons, daughters and precious loved ones. We strip these soldiers of everything that we know to be functionally human; we reshape them into a warrior’s body ready to fight at a moment’s notice without question.

What happens then when it is time to help them put their lives back together, after they have served their country?

When these young men and woman leave the protection of their family, friends and country, we as Canadians are entrusted with the sacred duty and obligation to care and protect those diverse human qualities they leave behind. Every Canadian should feel honored to be in this position of trust. Whether you agree or not with Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan over the last decade should not enter into your decision to care, support and love these young men and woman as they return home.

When our soldiers returned home from WW11, we as a nation new instinctively and, at a deep visceral level, what to do. We knew it was our duty and obligation to return to these young and new soldiers alike the values they entrusted us to hold close to our hearts. We knew as a nation we had to help them regain hope for a better tomorrow.

Throughout Canada, small business owners would find work for these returning veterans. People in all parts of Canada would offer our soldiers a place to stay until they got back on their feet. As Canadians, we offered them Land Grants and guaranteed their mortgage payments until they were fully functional and recovered from their injuries. In some cases, we just held their hands and told them it was okay to think and feel the way they did. We told them that it did not matter what their injuries were, we would stand by them and walk the walk with them. If our soldiers stumbled, we as Canadians would stumble as well. More importantly, we made sure that those soldiers injured while serving both you and our country had a pension which they could count on. We didn’t just give them compensation for their injuries and kick them to the curb; we took care of our precious soldiers. After all, our Canadian way is to love them back to health and wellness.  

Fast forward to today’s young men and woman returning home from the heat of battle: Thousands of soldiers, some with devastating injuries and life-altering experiences. These young men and women did a job that most of us would and could never do. Our soldiers took care of business and all they asked in return was for our beautiful country to care for them and help them re-humanize to the Canadian way.

These are our men and woman, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends. More importantly, they are our strength, hope and foundation for the future. They are now asking us to gently return to them their precious values and hope, those things they entrust to us while they serve on duty. They ask us for one brief moment in time to listen to them and to hold their hands as they recover from their injuries. They ask us to not take lightly those that gave their lives doing your will and your bidding.

Canada! It is time to step up and care for these returning brothers and sisters. We know that our Health system is taxed to the hilt, and yet we close our eyes to our government dumping these soldiers on an overburdened and dysfunctional healthcare system. Many of you are thinking right now that it is not our responsibility to care and love them back to health? The reality is we owe so much to these brave soldiers; we need to stand up and be counted.

You should know that these soldiers are being treated worse than criminals in our jails. In the prison system, 82% of the wardens in charge of rehabilitation are required to have an extensive background in the federal and provincial prison system. Understanding the underlying workings and having the cumulative knowledge required to mediate and impart to others how the system works and flows together is mandatory.

There was a time that to be the Minister of Veteran’s Affairs you had to have some form of military experience. You would naturally think that to be in charge of such a dynamic system would require extensive operational experience in the military. Well, the current Harper Government does not believe this is necessary. Our Minister of Veteran Affairs has no military experience what-so-ever!

As Canadians, you should know that in the prison system the criminal population has immediate and full coverage of all medical emergencies and injuries. These benefits are granted to all prisoners waiting trial and even if they have not been found guilty or innocent. Prisoners have a doctor on call twenty-four hours a day, and have all their medical expenses including all medications paid in full without question. These prisoners do not have to prove their injuries.   

Our returning veterans medically released with a variety of serious and, in some cases, life-threatening injuries have to not only provide proof of their service injury — unlike prisoners — they also have to wait, in some cases months, to be approved for treatment.  When our injured soldiers submit their first applications for treatment benefits, more than 40% are turned down immediately. Prisoners are never turned down regardless of the injury. 

When medically defeated and injured soldiers submit an application for review of their turned-down medical coverage, it can take up to two years to be heard in front of a Tribunal who have little or no medical experience.

Should our injured veterans be turned down at the various other levels of Tribunals, their only recourse is to take their case to Federal Court. Well, guess what? In the Criminal System, there is free legal counsel for those who can’t afford a lawyer. Our soldiers, however, have to pay for their legal fees in the Federal Courts. Most cannot afford the costs and therefore they cannot have the benefit and weight of the full Justice System. There is a new exception to this general injustice shown to our veterans: it should be noted that the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association has stepped up and offered their services in Ontario Federal Court at no cost to the already rejected and financially defeated soldier.

Canada, it is time we put a face to these wonderful brothers and sisters that are doing a job that you would not do. Some of these brave souls are living on the streets awaiting approval of their disability application. Since individuals in jail are automatically given benefits, don’t you think our soldiers have, at the very least, equal if not more benefits than men and women in jail? All of us should feel ashamed of our federal government and provincial governments’ treatment of our homecoming veterans.

The question is what are you going to do about this devastating situation our veterans find themselves in? If you do nothing, then shame on you. Everyone can call their federal and provincial member of parliament. Tell the Harper Government that we care about the experience and quality of the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs.

There are veteran organizations where you can donate your extra pennies. If you can’t afford to offer financial assistance, then share the plight of these soldiers with a friend. Write your community newspaper — tell them you care. Should you own a small business, hire one of our veterans. Please, please, please do something, anything, just do it!

To those of you already contributing in some small way, thank you so much. We have a long way to go before these brave heroes are taken care off. If you are so inclined, please pray for our veterans. Most of all, add your voice to Canadians who care about our veterans.

The time is now, not tomorrow or the next day.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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