Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Merry Christmas!

As we woke up to sugar hangovers on the first of November two thing were quickly apparent: chocolate was available at a very discounted price, and Christmas had arrived.

All seasonal shelves had been re-stocked with untangled light chains that worked without being sworn at and inexpensive inflatable Santas for those who forget that high-powered fans take a lot of power to run. But it would have been nice if we could have just waited on Christmas until the 12th of November.

November 11 is a canonized day in our society. World War I ended 98 years ago to the day. In 1945, World War II ended. It the last generation that truly appreciated that war was horrific, because no one in that generation was spared.

After allowing the media full access to the horrors of war in Vietnam, governments have been quite careful to control the images that get out. We’ve romanticized peacekeeping even though many of the men and women who served in places like Kosovo and Yugoslavia are now suffering from PTSD.

A total of 121 Canadians have died peacekeeping. We know that 158 members of the Canadian forces were killed in Afghanistan. We’ve all seen the pictures, the raw emotion of ramp ceremonies. The rest of the images are controlled.

In a very practical way it makes sense to skip right from Halloween to Christmas. War is hard to think about. It’s uncomfortable to think about. Veterans are a very small segment of the population. They are often not comfortable talking about what they’ve experienced. Military members are often quite used to operating in secrecy. And there are also the incredibly real hardships like: what do stores even put on the seasonal shelves for those two weeks?

This issue is easy to ignore. We wear poppies and go to a cenotaph for the morning, or at least watch the ceremonies on TV if it’s raining. Maybe sometimes we forget altogether until we check the news in the afternoon. It’s not even a nationwide statutory holiday.

Don’t we do enough? I get it. Sometimes I’ll even stay in bed on the 11th, trying desperately to sleep the day away so I’m not reminded of the guilt I feel about my actions in Libya. Then I drink myself into a stupor when I’m unsuccessful.

It sometimes feels like young veterans don’t exist.

The New Veterans Charter, passed unanimously by the House of Commons in 2005, has been largely panned by the people who have had to rely on it. Mainly because if a soldier was injured in Afghanistan on his initial three-year contract or was a reservist he does not have the 10 years required to qualify for a disability pension.

The lump sum payment is woefully inadequate and poorly quantifies injuries. Former soldier Bruce Moncur received $22,000 for getting shot in the head while deployed, and was not eligible for a pension.

His peers who get carpal tunnel from doing paper work in Canada got $32,500 and if they have over 10 years in the military, they also get a pension. Injuries from paperwork are worth $10,500 more than those received from combat.

Soldier On, a charitable organization that provides sports gear and athletic programming to injured Canadian Forces members so they can stay fit after injury, has recently had to cut back on services offered due to lack of donations.

Education benefits are not enough for injured soldiers to transition to civilian life. It’s hard to earn a four-year degree when Veterans Affairs will only cover two years of it. No. We are not doing enough.

Breast cancer gets a month. Men’s health gets the month of Movember, sorry I mean November. Mental health gets a day that we all tweet about. ALS got ice buckets.

Is it really too much to ask for the commercialization of Christmas to fuck off for 11 days so the reality of Remembrance Day is not masked by the glitter of tinsel?

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