ERMA's desk...: Who is really responsible for the affairs of our Veterans?

Are we remembering as we should?

Did we handle the wellbeing of our most worthy citizens with care or did we just create a catchphrase, “Veteran Affairs?” This phrase implies a promise to them that ‘we recognize their value for their country and as a result, they will be honoured from a compensation perspective?’ In reality, the promise has fallen short. Many of our Veterans are faceless and homeless. Whose fault is it? Many of them cannot cope with life after the war and too many of them are in ill health, mentally and physically. This is a sad plight for men and women who have done so much for their country. How would this sound in your ear if you spent an afternoon with a group of war survivors on November 11th?

These are the words shared by the group, the formative years of one’s life are some key years that shape who we are as we face the world on our own, one day at a time. Character is formed in these early teenage years incorporating the things we learned in our formative years. Many of us have missed those key years of facing the world and testing their own strengths and analyzing their decision-making abilities. I think this is a big setback for many of us and has proven to be a challenge for many of our Veterans in terms of assimilation back into society post-war. They may say…We don’t know who we are, where we fit, how to find our own niche and what to do if we are not fighting, hiding or being told what to do by our commanding officer. We had no chance to grow up normally and mature, make mistakes and attempt to correct what we can and live with the consequences of those we cannot correct. As a result, we are lost, in shock and disappointed with life with people and the world we were asked to or willing to die for. “Who are we and how did we get here”?

As the listener we ask ourselves, aren’t we the people who were/are in charge of their Affairs? Hopefully, we are not the real enemy. We are responsible for their wellbeing even though we feel no real sense of responsibility. Each sector of society is a model/pattern or example to the young men and women of tomorrow. When they look at our Veterans there is a sad story of war but even more pitiful is the lack of care, provision and recognition of the mentally slaughtered. In essence, which is more difficult to deal with, memories of the war or the broken promises of a country which promised to provide for those who survived.

There are Veterans today who honoured the idea of war even though it meant staring death in the face and life could be over in a second. There seems to be a greater purpose in death by any other means, than the slow pace of consciousness by which each dies one day at a time begging to be forgotten “now”. It’s no different for a prisoner leaves prison only to and intentionally re-offend with the goal of re-incarceration with its guarantee of some level of inclusion, food somewhat adequate to nourish his belly at the least and a hard surface to lie on. Is that we mean when we say “Veterans Affairs?”

Dark moments is a war legacy, and nothing could be more disturbing than to come to a realization of the years of one’s youth taken away. To think that those who were left behind in the war zone were better off than those who lived and came home is too much to bear. There are no happy Veterans just broken men and women who saw too much pain to assimilate into the very fabric of what was the piece of the heritage they fought to preserve.

What message are we sending to the young? War is never attractive but out of a sense of duty to our country and its young people, most of them promising kids who will head out and say to home and family, as it is said in the Book of Esther, chapter 3: 12, “if I perish I perish”. Some of these kids had not left home to even visit a friend/family member out of town before. The new generation will not have that same sense of duty. They are connected/exposed to a lifestyle of technology, quick-fix dinners, safety and comfort. If they are not drafted, they will not go. Blaming them would be easy but the real culprits are the ones have been trusted with the overall process of making sure Veterans are cared for and are given the appropriate recognition by making every effort to see that life after the war is not a prison sentence which is lived out with an open door policy.

The greatest gift we could give to each other is a life of no further wars. Whether that is possible or not, let’s learn from the pain of today, by reviewing our past and present mistakes, embrace the future as we try to improve the quality of life for every Veteran until we lay our last Comrade to rest. If we show gratitude to those who are still among us, knowing that they fought valiantly, they believed sincerely, they returned courageously and they are recognized for the gift of freedom their Comrades died for in battle, then they can truly know that their collective efforts and their medals of honour are just a wink in the dark that said ” we stand today because they cared enough to lay it down so we can rise in victory over our enemies. Let’s salute those Veterans among us and cover our shame because we have learned from the pain of war and we can only go forward in trust!

See the Corrigan/Torstar editorial cartoon at CORRIGAN

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