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Author Topic: Keep the faith
2 Charlie
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posted 21 January 2021 23:06     Profile for 2 Charlie     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
For the folks who want to slam the new bill, maybe just a little suck back and reload, then vent your fury else where.

For my friends who also check out the WD, those with GWS, or PTSD. Our service has taught us every year to make a solemn committment to our war dead and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for Canada in the service of peace.

I have also taken to saying a little prayer for those who live each and every day with the realities we all have to face. To G, CM, MG, SM and everyone else, we have to keep the faith.


We got a new $10 bill last week. In announcing it, our federal powers that be made note of the spiffy design on its back that honours Canadian peacekeepers and veterans.

They shouldn't have. Really. If our federal government truly wanted to honour our peacekeepers and veterans, it needn't have redesigned the money. They'd be honoured just to have a little of the old stuff.

Plus a little recognition, a little care, a little respect for the duty they paid - and many are still paying, with their health and even their lives. Specifically, those veterans who answered the call 10 years ago in the brief but spectacular Persian Gulf war. For many of us, aside from a few video-game-style TV clips, that war has faded from our consciousness. If we think about it at all, it's as a vague failure - after all, isn't that bad boy Saddam Hussein still ensconced in Iraq ... or is it Iran?

But for hundreds of our own Gulf veterans, the war continues. It's a war for compensation, for recognition and, most of all, for answers to the mysterious series of illnesses collectively known as "Gulf war syndrome."

Officially, that's a misnomer - because there was no Gulf war. As Defence Minister Art Eggleton put it in a 1998 response to a petition from sick Gulf vets, Canada's participation in the Gulf conflict was "to maintain or restore international peace and security," and "such action is not considered 'war' in international law or policy." So there.

Since there was no "war," Gulf veterans aren't entitled to war allowances or war pensions, or war widows' allowances, explains Sue Riordon, director for the Maritime branch of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association - and the widow of Capt. Terry Riordon, 45, who died April 29, 2021 after years of terrible, debilitating illness following his service in the Gulf.

Oddly enough, Riordon's death certificate specifically states the cause of death as "Gulf war syndrome" - even though it's still not clear what that is, or what causes it.

Dr. Ken Scott, director of medical policy for the Canadian Forces, said earlier this month that Gulf war syndrome "has nothing to do with medicine, science, common sense or logic."

Mysterious ailments

The same could be said, says Sue Riordon, of Canada's response. She says there are as many as 3,000 Canadian Gulf veterans (out of a total of 4,500 who served) still battling mysterious ailments - and a government that won't listen to them.

"We have come a long way since Terry died," she told me last week. "But there's still a long way to go."

Last year, Veterans Affairs announced it would extend benefits to sufferers of Gulf war syndrome (the preferred designation is "post-traumatic stress disorder," which is a little like referring to pneumonia as a bad cold). More than 200 are now collecting some benefits - although, as Riordon points out, most are only getting a fraction of their pensions. Many are receiving just 5%, which adds up to about $100 a month, she says.

"That's why we see so many veterans who are on social assistance or homeless." She personally worked with more than 100 homeless vets last year - the number is now down to 15.

Riordon, who's in contact with hundreds of Gulf war syndrome sufferers in her region alone, says the military makes it as difficult as possible to get benefits. "The onus is on the veteran to prove (his or her illness is a result of military service)."

The hearings and paperwork are overwhelming, as she knows from fighting the battle for her dying husband. "Many of these people can't remember their own names - how are they supposed to go through this process?"

Recent international concerns raised over the possible effects of depleted uranium (DU) weapons on soldiers in the Gulf and the Balkans have raised some hope - though Riordon is careful to call DU "a building block" in understanding the problem, not necessarily the answer. Capt. Riordon had "double-digit" levels of DU in his vertebrae, she notes. "His body told a lot ... Canada doesn't want to accept it."

Canadian officials have stressed over the past few weeks that no soldier tested for DU exposure has tested positive, but Riordon argues that's because the testing equipment is inadequate. It's time for a concerted, international search for answers, not the usual obfuscation and indifference.

Or as she puts it, "try a little accountability and telling the truth for a change.

"Maybe we can give these guys and women we told to serve us a bit of dignity, and say it's not all in your head, you are sick."

Now that would be an honour.

Linda Williamson is the Toronto Sun senior associate editor.

Posts: 61 | From: | Registered: Jan 2001

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