My grandfather was one of millions of German soldiers who struggled mightily to pick up the pieces of his life after the Second World War. He kept his experiences to himself, not even sharing stories with my father. Over 50 years ago my grandfather had to move past the tragedy of war pretty much on his own and the sad thing is that many of the struggles I believe he faced are being experienced by veterans today. We all can do a better job of remembering our veterans’ potential on Remembrance Day.
It is concerning that many Canadian veterans do not receive support from our government after serving in foreign theatres like Afghanistan. There has been a great deal written about the Canadian Government’s lack of support of its veterans’ health needs. Earlier this year the Globe and Mail published a scathing report investigating the high number of suicides taking place following service in Afghanistan. A recently released Canadian Forces report has charted the risk factors for suicide, particularly trauma and mental illness connected to the Afghanistan war. Another report and investigation conducted by the Canadian Press showed that many veterans suffering from mental health trauma are being treated as threats by police, who lack the adequate resources to properly respond and support them.
It’s clear that more needs to be done to support veterans and it makes sense to do so. From an employment perspective, our soldiers have entered into a contract with our government to risk their lives in foreign countries to protect our country’s interests. In return, the government must honour its commitment to support them as they manage the injuries sustained during their tour(s) – be they mental or physical traumas. Some organizations are doing good work in this field. One example is CERIC, who are currently working on a veterans employment handbook (a massive research project in collaboration with many stakeholders) to address many of these issues.
This Remembrance Day offers an important opportunity to reflect on this contract so that our veterans need not suffer in silence like many past generations.