Saturday 14 November 2009

Awards and heroes: we must remember the fallen who live in terrible conditions

I have been reflecting on awards lately. Many disciplines offer awards. Many bloggers present an award to another blogger. Fishing Guy has many, and rightly so, he has a delightful blog! Many post a message saying 'thanks, but no thanks'. The Canadian blogger awards have been in full force lately.

My question is this:
How can we judge that someone has gone above and beyond what is expected, and produced something that exceeds that which we deserve, expect, or demand from those who are paid of volunteer to do the jobs that they perform?

Let me provide an example.

This past week, after Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada, medals were awarded by the Governor General, the queen's representative in Canada. The full list of medals awarded is here: Official news release and list of recipients.

"In an Ottawa ceremony, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean presented soldiers with three different medals of distinction: one Star of Military Valour; 10 medals of Military Valour to those who have displayed devotion to duty in combat; and six Meritorious Service Crosses and 31 Meritorious Service Medals for achievements in military service." the CBC reports.

With soldiers, like this, whose live are forever changed, I find it fascinating that we give awards to those who have shown leadership in positions of authority, but isn't that what they are paid to do? What about those struggling with physical, social, mental or emotional wounds?

Slow, but staggering progress

Through raw determination, his fiancée's love and modern neuroscience, Captain Trevor Greene is learning to walk again almost four years after an axe attack
I heard this story 4 years ago, but hadn't kept up with it. I guess the media has not, either. During negotiations in Afghanistan, an insurgent snuck up behind him and sunk an axe in his head. What a horror. The physiotherapy is agonizing, But what bothers me are the stories his wife tells of the doctors who told him to give up. But that is another issue.

I can understand soldiers earning the Star of Military Valour, or the Medal of Military Valour. Stories abound of those who risk personal injury to rescue others, or civilians. But why does the Military award "Meritorious Service Medals" (MSM) for those who are commanding a team? Surely the awards comes in their high salaries (not so for the less well paid soldiers), and in promotions. One of the 31 MSMs went to a Major "for commanding the Air Capability Activation Team in Afghanistan from June 2008 to January 2009."

What about the soldiers who go back to Afghanistan, having served one term of duty? What about the families who live their lives hoping not to have that dreaded visit, as they are informed of the death of a loved one is a tragic cost of this engagement.

My husband's father (pictured in the shadow box with his medals), having come home from liberating troops from one of the death camps, had his hair turn white. It was a horrible experience for a young man.

Better still, the question I ask, why are we putting our young men and women in these positions in this day and age? I bow in honour at their courage, being in the front lines, trying to build schools and hospitals, teaching Afghannies how to patrol their towns and villages, but is the cost of 133 men and women worth it? To see these soldiers coming home, and the impact on their families as they suffer from stress, or full-blown PTSD, breaks my heart. The nightmares must be awful for many. 

Some of our vets from WW II are homeless, and on the streets. Both in Canada, and the USA. Stats, according to, are scant for Canada, but the (US) National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says that the Dep't of Veteran Affairs tells them,
The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems.

They are uncertain how many men and women are homeless as a result of these issues, but they estimate that 130,000 in the US (including 4% females) are on the streets. This is the cost of war, when we allow substance abuse and mental illness affect our soldiers. With inadequate treatment of addictions, the resulting cost to society is worse than tragic. It is immoral.


2 min 40 sec - 25 Mar 2007 - 
Rated 5.0 out of 5.0

( )From the CBS Evening News, Sunday, March 25, 2007.

Surely we have learned the cost of war? And even more assuredly, the cost of attempting to help a nation move into the new millennium. The valiant attempts to help Afghanistan create a democracy, with a history of tribes, tribal wars, and a civil policing force that is susceptible to corruption, fear, cultural practices, and abuse, is just plain wrong. 

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree with a lot of what you say Jenn. Trying to " tame" Afghanistan and bring it into our ways is a non starter - why should they follow our path - and with the goegraphy and history of the country being what it is I fear we are fighting a losing battle. That is not to say that our soldiers should be ignored - they are brave young men and women and deserve our support and gratitude.