Short notice for Day of Honour surprises Royal Canadian Legion
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, May 8, 2014 8:33AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 8, 2014 12:34PM EDT
The Royal Canadian Legion is perplexed about why the federal government gave them so little time to prepare commemoration ceremonies for Friday’s National Day of Honour to mark the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President Gordon Moore says many veterans are so upset they're planning not to attend.
Moore says the legion was informed only a month ago that the government was hoping legion halls across the country would hold ceremonies to mark the day. Legions have been scrambling to organize events ever since, he says.
“Most branches across the country, in the last two weeks, have put a program together to honour Afghan veterans, even with the short notice that we did receive,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday from Ottawa.
But given that the federal government has known since 2012 that the mission was going to come to an end this year, Moore doesn’t understand why the legion wasn’t given more notice that they would be asked to take part.
“We don`t understand the reasoning behind it. It is frustrating that we only received this amount of notice,” he said.
“But we`ve run into this kind of thing before, and the Royal Canadian Legion has pulled together and put events on to ensure that our veterans are honoured. Why it was such a big secret, no one really understands it.”
Moore says most legions are planning ceremonies that will range from half an hour to an hour. The Day of Honour will also be commemorated at military bases across Canada, and in Ottawa there will be a parade that begins at the Canadian War Museum and travels along the Memorial Route to Parliament Hill, where a moment of silence will be held.
But Moore says many of the veterans he’s spoken to have told him they are not interested in taking part in any of the ceremonies.
“Some of the veterans that served in Afghanistan and their families are not recognizing tomorrow at all. They feel the government has let them down, especially when it comes to benefits and support. They’re not going to be participating at all; they’re just staying home. They’re not even going to watch it on TV, which is very disappointing,” he said.
Moore says perhaps if the government had given the legions lots of lead time to prepare and pull ceremonies together, the majority of Afghan vets would have been supportive. But as it is, many feel slighted.
“We have over 40,000 men and women who served in Afghanistan and this is the type of respect these people are receiving from the government, I think it’s just appalling.”
Some seeking closure
Retired Capt. Wayne Johnston says he hopes the National Day of Honour helps bring the families – and him -- a little closure.
Johnston served in Bosnia before becoming a Canadian Forces' repatriation officer, a job in which he had to receive the bodies of fallen soldiers, and help their families arrange funerals.
It was an emotionally-charged job that left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even now, he says, he remembers all the families of each of the soldiers who was killed.
“I’ll never forget these young men and women – and I guess I’m all right with that. Because as the nation forgets – and hopefully they won’t – the families and friends wont,” he told CTV News Channel Thursday.
He says he understand why some soldiers are irritated with Friday’s hastily-prepared ceremonies and says there is still much that government can do to help veterans of the Afghan conflict.
“I would say to the prime minister, if you truly want to honour these fallen, help the living,” he said.
The first step, he said, would be to improve the New Veterans Charter, particularly the issue of lump sum payment to injured veterans rather than monthly pension.
“The monthly pension gives them security and dignity,” he said. “… They were all young men and women when they were injured and they need lifetime support.”