So it begins.... the Canadian Forces turn on the wounded and the promises it once said it will uphold.
Wounded soldiers were promised that if they meet the universality of service (fitness levels) that they would have 3 years to be able to meet those goals. The number of wounded, inured and ill troops from areas of operations that are either severely wounded or permanently disabled is actually quite small and manageable. General Hillier once promised that even the disabled could still stay in uniform.
General Hillier (ret) said, "only a handful of soldiers have been classified as permanently disabled since the dangerous mission in Kandahar began. And he vowed the military will do everything it can to keep the injured men and women in uniform. Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor said “We are reviewing that policy in light of the number of casualties that we have had from Afghanistan to make sure that people who have sacrificed their lives for us, and sacrificed maybe parts of their future, that we can look after them and re-integrate them into the military,”
Angell, Globe and Mail 2008
The Canadian Forces will review the files of up to 50 soldiers wounded during the Afghan war to determine whether they should be allowed to continue to serve or be released from the military. The administrative review is expected to start in the spring but sources say as many as 18 of the soldiers, some severely wounded, could be asked to leave. Rear-Admiral Andy Smith, chief of military personnel, confirmed the reviews will take place but he said it is too early to determine the outcome.
"Those who are wounded in action represent a special set of people who have gone out there and done the business and merit the full compassion of the institution and the country," he said. But Smith said that the Canadian Forces still adhere to the principle of universality of service, which dictates that all members must be fit and capable of deploying on operations.
Smith also noted that Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk has put a priority on doing as much as possible to take care of the wounded. "The CDS has said for those people who don't want to leave the Canadian Forces, we're not going to release them unless or until we work with them to transition their way out of the forces," Smith explained.
"As long as they are employable, if they don't want to leave the Canadian Forces we are going to look to provide them options to stay in the forces in areas where the overlying principle of universality of service doesn't apply." He said the two main areas for that is employment with the cadet program or with the Rangers in Canada's North. There could be training or administrative jobs with either organization.
The files of 40 or 50 wounded soldiers would be reviewed, Smith added. Those all involve individuals wounded as a result of enemy action. Wounded reservists would also be covered under the same process. Soldiers, worried that the wounded veterans would be kicked out of the military, approached the Ottawa Citizen to provide details about the review process. But Smith said the Canadian Forces has placed great emphasis on caring for the wounded over the last several years, setting up mental-health programs and a joint personnel support unit, which provides help for ill and injured military personnel and their families. In addition, the military has provided assistance to help upgrade homes of wounded soldiers to deal with their injuries, he added.
Smith also pointed out that he recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Corps of Commissionaires to provide employment opportunities for personnel. As well, there is a system where veterans are supposed to get priority referrals for public service jobs. Smith said the military has learned lessons over the last several years from the Afghan mission.
"I would submit this is a good news story," he explained. "We're not taking a cold, heartless, clinical approach and pushing people out the door. We're making sure that we work with them to help them get back on their feet and if they have to turn the page we help them."
A number of injured Afghan war veterans have approached the Citizen to discuss their ongoing problems receiving help from either the Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs but they decline to go public for fear of retribution from either organization. Other Afghan veterans have expressed concern there are a number of physically unfit individuals in the Canadian Forces who have never been sent overseas, yet who are allowed to remain in the military while wounded combat veterans could be shown the door. But Smith said individuals who can't pass fitness tests are provided with help but ultimately they too would be removed from the Canadian Forces if they cannot meet the universality-of-service conditions.
A number of senators have been speaking out recently to prod the government to do more for Afghan veterans. Liberal Senator Percy Downe has written cabinet ministers urging them to show "political leadership" and order their departments to hire more ex-military who are on the waiting list for jobs in the public service. The government gave medically discharged veterans a hiring preference in 2005 to work in the public service. But DowneHe argues the government could easily absorb the number of ex-military and RCMP sitting on priority lists. At last count, 245 went on the list and 177 found jobs over two years, with the majority hired by National Defence. Last year, 67 veterans fell off the priority list when their hiring preference expired.
|Simon and Paul Franklin, General Pace and Genral Hillier|
One of the last promises the former head of the military made before retiring earlier this month was that a Calgary soldier who lost his legs in Afghanistan would have his job in the Army waiting for him when he got out of the hospital. And Cpl. Mark Fuchko, who gave his first interview to the Sun on Friday, said he will take him up on the offer.
"The (Chief of the Defence Staff) and the military are really keen in keeping guys like me in and giving us gainful employment," said Fuchko, adding the military is doing everything it can to help severely wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan. When former Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier was in Calgary in mid-April to award commendations to two other Calgary soldiers, he met with Fuchko, who was then undergoing rehabilitation at Foothills hospital.
"Corporal Fuchko is a professional and dedicated soldier, an amazing young man and a great Canadian," said Hillier at the time. Fuchko lost both his legs below the knee and he suffered a shattered pelvis when the armoured vehicle he was driving, while in operations in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan, was struck by one of the largest improvised bombs the Canadians have faced to date. Fuchko's actions following the blast have been credited for being the reason he survived the tremendous blast. This week, Fuchko said he fully intends to take the former chief up on his offer, adding his goal is to increase his running distance, using his new prosthetic legs, then passing the Canadian Forces physical standards test and then return to duty.
"My focus right now is to get back into as best a shape I can and to get to where I was before," said Fuchko.
"I'll never be as effective as I was before, but if I'm fit again, I'm sure there's something I can do in the Army.
"I have a lot of experience, so I'd like to help the guys going to Afghanistan and get them ready for the experience." Fuchko, a corporal with the King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC), was on his second tour in Afghanistan when he faced the explosion that forever changed his life. According to doctors, the 24-year-old Calgary father beat the odds, said his mother Helen.
Calgary Sun - - Promises to keep http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Alberta/2008/07/13/pf-6144446.html
Does a soldier that fought for his country and lost parts an pieces (be it physical or physcological) deserve to continue to have a career or should they be let go as a burden on the system.
Offers of cadet Instruction or security guard Commisionaire may sound good on paper but try telling a soldier that their career that they fought so hard for is over and the best that we as a society can offer is security guard at a federal building or teaching cadets.....
Some how it falls on shallow ears.