Remembrance Day in our family is a very poignant day. My father- in- law, Jack, lost both of his brothers, Neil and George, in the Second World War. They were fighter pilots who were shot down, and buried, in Europe. They were both in their early 20s when they died. Jack’s father, Frank, died from complications of the mustard gas he was exposed to when fighting in the First World War. Jack himself enlisted in the Canadian air force at the ripe old age of 17 years. The day he was to finish his basic training the war ended.
Most of our veterans who survived the first and second world wars have passed away, but as Canadians we sometimes forget that we have active military service members fighting, or peacekeeping, all of the time. These people choose a line of work that exposes them to constant danger and situations that not only threaten their physical and mental health but the welfare of their loved ones, waiting at home.
The Royal Canadian Legion hosts their annual poppy campaign at this time every year and the funds raised go to support veterans and their families. But the reality is that this campaign is for a few weeks once a year, but our veterans are living with the effects of war 365 days a year. Their need doesn’t go away simply because it’s November 12th and people turn their focus to Christmas.
There are lots of things that we can do to support our veterans all year long. Here are a few ideas:
- Wounded Warriors is an organization that hosts fundraisers that bring its participants oversees to bike across historical battle sites. The money raised goes toward helping veterans and their families with the ongoing effects of their service.
- The Royal Canadian Legion is the best known fundraiser and advocate for veterans. Recently service dogs have been recognized as a treatment for veterans suffering with post- traumatic stress disorder, a very frustrating condition to treat. A recent U.S. study suggests that 82% of vets with PTSD saw their symptoms reduced and 40% were less reliant on medication to cope after working with a service dog. The Canadian government has a pilot project for vets and service dogs but state that there is not enough scientific research to make service dogs widely available as a treatment for vets with PTSD. But groups like the Royal Canadian Legion and Wounded Warriors have service dog programs for vets, and Can Praxis has a similar program for vets with horses.
- Many veterans who are injured and discharged from military service return home without employment, which can destroy a family financially, but can also be difficult for the veteran who is trying to return to civilian life. Having a job provides self- esteem, a social network and the sense of being part of a team, which would be many of the things the vet would be missing from their life in service. Veterans Affairs Canada offers the “Hire a Vet” program which assists vets released from service with reintegrating into the work force in their community.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as one of his key campaign promises, is working to re-open veteran affairs offices, establish life- long pensions and expand benefits for vets. As voters and citizens we can use our collective influence to help ensure that Prime Minister Trudeau keeps this promise.
- Speak up, and often, for our veterans. As Canadians we enjoy an excellent quality of life and we owe our quality of live to our service men and women who sacrificed their lives, now and then, to protect ours. We need to speak openly, frequently, and honestly about the effects of service on our veterans so that we can raise awareness and destroy any stigma attached to the mental health issues so rampant as a result of service.
We owe it to them for all they’ve done for us.
At Kennedy Schofield we are proud to be an Industry Partner of the CF Appreciation Program & Brookfield Global Relocation Services, where we can do our part to support our military community.