This letter is addressed to David Wilks as our local MP. It is also directed to the Harper government, and particularly to the Prime Minister, former Defence Minister Peter MacKay, former Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, and Chief of Air Staff Lt. Gen. Andre Deschamps.
I am writing this as an open letter because I have contacted all of the above named, and have yet to receive a helpful response from any of them.
This issue concerns the way in which this Harper government deals with our military veterans. It would seem that once our Armed Forces personnel are no longer on active service, they are treated en masse as a nuisance problem. The latest insult to our veterans is to deny them the financial support they need to deal with the various injuries and handicaps they suffer as a result of their military service.
A case in point concerns a friend of mine, a local veteran who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. This gentleman was a pilot who flew bombers in 35 raids over occupied Europe and Germany. He survived the war and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill, devotion to duty, and bravery. He was a member of Bomber Command, which helped shorten the war in Europe, at a cost of 10,000 Canadian aircrew lives. During and after the war, the men who flew in Bomber Command were not acknowledged as having been part of a very important and costly military campaign.
In 2012 the British government recognized this oversight and made amends by erecting a memorial in London and by awarding the surviving veterans a “bar” to add to their military decorations. The Canadian government followed the British lead but did not immediately act in putting the new decoration in the hands of qualified veterans. Most of these vets who still survive are in the 85 to 95 age range, and they are dying every day.
In July 2012 my friend Dave, aged 91, very much looked forward to receiving his Bomber Command decoration, and so I sent letters to the politicians mentioned above to request that the awards be made as soon as possible. This was not done. By October 2012 Dave was in hospital with cancer. I sent another letter to Mr. Wilks et al, providing this information and requesting that some recognition be made to Dave while he was still with us. This was not done. Dave died the following month.
I recognize that the machinations of bureaucracy take time, and are impersonal. But at the very least, a phone call or card from our own MP would have been a welcome gesture. Shame on this government. And shame on those people who vote to keep it in power.
Lest we forget!