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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coming OUT in Kandahar and it can get better.

Warrant Officer Andrew McLean is a decorated Search and Rescue Technician a war vet and one of the greats of Canadian society.  
His story of discrimination and harassment is something we can all learn from.

I have worked with Andrew and the Soldier On program and he is a soldier that is dedicated to the cause of helping the wounded, injured and ill Canadian forces soldiers and vets.  
We can all learn how to be like Andrew.


This is the letter I wrote while deployed when I read about the death of James Hubley: 
Coming OUT in Kandahar

I am a member of the Canadian Forces currently deployed in Kandahar Afghanistan and have been following the recent news regarding gay/lesbian teens in school. It is in the forefr
ont of my mind because I myself have been subject to discrimination/ harassment during my deployment.


Friends and comrades that work with Soldier On
Steve Daniel (center) is a participant in the Soldier On program and a Paralympian.
                                         Sgt. Karen McCoy (second from left), who lost a leg to cancer,  Master Corp. Mike Trauner (lefand      Andrew Kinsley (right), all part of Soldier On, are in Whistler,
B.C., taking in the Paralympic Games — and played an active part in the opening ceremony.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Canwest News Service


When I returned from me scheduled vacation I discovered an anonymous note that was left on my work space file cabinet (Sept 29th 2011) that stated "Your Gay Because of this -2." My immediate reactions were many; from embarrassment to anger as well. I wondered, was my personal safety at risk? Here in Kandahar Airfield there are many different nations and religions around. It’s true most countries have policies allowing for openly gay service members to serve, but the reality we face is found in the responses posted on the articles CTV/CBC and other news outlets have published. Confusion and misunderstanding of the who, what, where, why and when from both sides will always be an issue.

In a very short period of time, I was forced to decide who I could trust, decide who I could approach with my very personal concerns, as if we had known each other on a personal level, and that person was going to be a superior officer in my chain of command. It was not easy but I took steps necessary to prepare myself to report the discrimination/harassment.

Within an hour of discovering the note I visited the Canadian Medical Facility and asked to speak with a social worker. That meeting was the first expression of who I was (as a private individual) to a senior ranking officer in the Canadian Military. I showed him the note and expressed my many different
emotions/reactions at that time. I made additional visits to his office more for support and used the opportunities to get out a number of feelings I had been dealing with since discovering the note out in the open.


From there I approached my Senior Canadian commander (I work under a NATO commander with the boss being a US General) and showed him the note and expressed my emotions/reactions to him as well. It is not an easy thing to discuss private matters let alone gay issues, especially in a military professional environment.

At first, I was not so keen on going forward with any formal complaint, but after a couple of days and speaking with personal friends via the internet back home I had picked myself up enough and decided that this could not go on without being addressed formally. I filed both a Military Police and Formal Harassment Complaint. Unfortunately the environment that I am in brings great challenge for my Canadian chain of command to do anything about it (they have struggled as well with dealing with this and have been very supportive), COMKAF (Command Kandahar Airfield) have since released a Harassment/Discrimination Policy which I was very surprised NATO/COMKAF did not have one in place prior.

It has been over a month now since the note was left for me to find and when I read about the death of James Hubley of Ottawa on Oct 14 and what he had expressed about his difficulties in dealing with the "does it get better" question I myself understood each and every word he said. It is not easy and believe me if there was a choice then I would have made it long ago, wife and two kids, a white picket fence, but after many years of trying to deny myself, I realized I was born who I am and there is nothing I want to change about me.


I have served 21 years in the CF and have a long history of exceptional performance. I have been interviewed on national and local television in uniform beside some of our wounded AFG warriors. I cofounded and have championed for Soldier On/Sans Limites for 5 years (www.soldieron.ca). I have been awarded Combat Corporal of the Year, Search and Rescue Tech of the Year, Canadian Ultra Runner of the Year, bestowed the King Clancy Award by the Canadian Foundation of Physically Disabled Persons, selected to be a Medal Bearer for the Rick Hanson 25th Anniversary Relay, was the last Paralympic Torch Bearer in Vancouver before Mr. and Mrs. Fox marched the torch into the Opening Ceremonies, 5 x Canadian Ultra Running Champion, hold course records for the Petawawa Ironman Challenge (toughest army competition) winner of the Mountain Man competition for western military forces.....and so on.

I am also a member of the Order of Military Merit with Commander Commendations from the CDS, Army and Airforce commanders.

I started out in the Canadian Forces as an infanteer with the Royal Canadian Regiment and changed to the elite Search and Rescue Technician trade in 1997, this rounds off just a few facts of me being a soldier and a man. A gay man.

I am not really sure how this will all end, but I thought one way of dealing with my recent discrimination/harassment issue has been to stand up to it and not be afraid to be who I am. So "Coming Out in Kandahar" is one way for me to fight discrimination/harassment when those who discriminate/harass hide behind their own ignorance.


Warrant Officer Andrew McLean
SAR TECH
Soldier On

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Andrew for your service and dedication. Very well written and congratulations on your achievements ... as difficult as it may have been or still might be, keep up the fight ... I am sure you are not alone with this battle but know that we are here for you and support you 110%.

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