This blog post has been a draft on my computer for quite some time, usually I would read something online that made me work on it a bit more, then I would let it rest. Review and edit a couple of times, re-word and adjust the tone a couple of times… in general, this was a post that I was never sure it would really be complete. So, it will end with a TO BE CONTINUED……I am just putting all my thoughts together in one spot, and will pretty them up in future blog posts.
As long time followers of my blog already know, I have intentionally avoided discussion points about the military involvement in my cancer journey. I have multiple reasons for this and to summarize the main point quickly and easily – it isn’t really relevant to the current course of medical events, and if I talk about everything now, what will I use to fill in the stories in a couple of years. So I will refrain from bringing that topic up now. Many of these blog posts are already written to talk about my move to Edmonton with those other facets of the cancer journey, the military reactions and my process towards what I expect will become a medical (3B) release, but they won’t be posted until I need the material.
This post will be somewhat different from normal. I am looking at my future, the unknowns that revolve around becoming a “retired Veteran”. I have spent a fair amount of time in the last year or so starting to investigate the various Veterans advocacy groups, and support organizations. I must admit, watching all this sometimes makes me feel like I have a ringside seat at the circus and the myriad of participants in the production of the spectacle. So many of the performers in this circus all think they should be the main attraction, believe some of the other performers shouldn’t be there, and/or that they should be the ringmaster.
I have come to terms with the fact that I am soon to find myself trying to figure out if I have a part to play in the act, and maybe that means my unicycle skills will finally benefit me. The realization that I wouldn’t be a guy who would have limited involvement with VAC in retirement was not a happy one. I believe I can make that statement, now that my applications are officially part of the “backlog” at Veterans Affairs.
I don’t make these statements lightly. I have been doing my homework, research, and even joined a number of the groups and Facebook pages.
Some people who I have talked to, wonder why so many Veterans groups are formed, organize protests, press conferences, and demand change from the government. Well, one which I would like to highlight was something that become a bit of an election issue for Veterans. I won’t go into details but check out Equitas society and their story.
But, I do want to explain that the issues surrounding Veterans groups and leaders isn’t a new thing. For many years, dating back to when years get counted the other direction in the times when the Greek, or Roman empires were the world powerhouses, the duty of care that was afforded to soldiers was considered a key hallmark of some armies. The soldiers fought better when they felt that they would be cared for after the battle – alive or dead. Again, I won’t go into details, but this podcast (click to check it out) makes current generation connections to the actions of the United States Marine Corps. I think that the election issue and the debate of the duty of care owed to the Veterans, should not be taken lightly. Again, the duty of care issue was part of the issues that were prevalent at the beginning of the election process.
Many groups are formed with the intent of unifying the Veterans to fight the government, by which I mostly mean to fight Veterans Affairs for an entitlement. I stopped counting when I looked into groups as there are well over 100 different groups. Some I have referred to as “axe-grinding cranky pants” who form a group to promote their agenda, and claim to speak for all Veterans.
This Defence Watch article came out this spring, and uses mainstream media to promote a couple of the groups, over the others – I joined that group – it doesn’t cost anything, although I am blocked from viewing the twitter feed – so, I am not 100% sure what I said or when (I think I know – will mention it later). They now count me among their numbers.
I have also been a member of the Royal Canadian Legion off and on for the last 25 years, depending on where I lived and the proximity. If you want to talk about a group that has its share of ups and downs – it’s an interesting one. The Legion is the largest Veterans group in Canada, but its membership is dwindling. Veteran membership is taking the largest drop, and a number of the groups ask why, what can be done, or what should be done?
Ok Rob, you are rambling again, where are you going with this?
SOCIAL MEDIA and online ADVOCACY
This time of year, it seems for the last couple of years, that I get added to Facebook groups that are Veteran related (4 so far in the last 2 months). For the record, I don’t mind if people add me, but if I choose to leave, it is my choice after I decide my interest in the group (so don’t get mad) – but I don’t add people to groups as a general rule, I may send them a note saying check this group out, but that is my preference. I have noticed a common theme, and that is that every group wants to be the group that unifies all the Veterans towards the chosen cause. I have different theories on why this happens, and over a beer with another Cancer fighting, motorcycle riding, Veteran; he gave me what I think is the best answer – as most of us are the more aggressive personality types, many people think that they can do it better than those that are doing it now.
This leads to the problem that maybe the government is counting on – we (the Veterans) aren’t getting along well enough to unify.
On to why I think that I got blocked on twitter by @veteranscanada (Don – was mentioned in the Defence watch article). Before the last election, fellow Sea King navigator (TACCO) Erin O’Toole was made Minister of Veterans Affairs. In many of the Facebook groups and social media – there was uproar over his handling of “stakeholders”, citing that he felt representative groups must have elected leadership with a group determined mandate; which restricted a vast majority of the “axe grinding cranky-pants” groups from being eligible to attend. Now, some groups had him fooled, and I know this as I am also a member of a group that he permitted to attend, with many members – just not elected representation. I may have made a comment using the term “axe grinding cranky-pants” in some of the discussion groups or pages, which may be why I got blocked – that is my theory anyway. All my research into a number of the groups, of which I am a member – I don’t have voting rights, I can comment on social media posts and such – but ultimately have no sway in the position of the group in the National forums. How can I state that they speak for me as a Veteran?
But, back to present day arguments.
A number of the social media groups are abuzz right now with the most recent “stakeholder” conference. The majority of them support my (for lack of a better term) “conspiracy theory” that the many Veterans groups help cause the conflict between government and too many groups, each with their own agenda. Social media is the greatest tool for letting people identify the problems that they see, but it isn’t the greatest for coordinating efforts to make effective changes. Where that will go, I don’t know.
I have a theory, a thought, possibly something to consider.
PUBLIC PRESSURE and MEDIA
The government gets a mandate from the public, so if the public isn’t overly concerned with the treatment of Veterans – they won’t be either.
An observation from a friend that runs a Facebook page for a Tribute Truck is that his numbers are down, people have “unliked” the page and no longer visit. This matches my observations. For Example – One cannot purchase red support the troops gear anywhere that I can find. RED Fridays seem to be forgotten – how many people remember that….. RED = Remember Everyone Deployed. We still have troops all over the world, but they aren’t in the news so people have already forgotten.
Todays big news was that West Edmonton Mall would be open regular hours on Nov 11. This causes substantial online uproar. Many businesses will be open on that day, even my local dollar store has sign stating 9-9. But why does the discussion about normal day vs stat holiday becomes more a priority when articles like this hit the waves? Are people fighting the early opening in order to attend a cenotaph or just to get a good sleep in and quiet day? How many of the people complaining that stores are open, will go to the mall? How many kids with the day off school will now go to a cenotaph instead of roaming the mall? They have since retracted and now open at noon.
Almost any military member will tell you, that we get treated better in the USA as Canadian Forces than we get here. Public opinion is what will motivate the politicians. Veterans have a newer challenge replacing a government issued ID card (with photo) with what almost looks like an airline loyalty card , which increases the challenge of obtaining benefits for Veterans(but that is being argued on a separate page, and maybe a future blog post).
I have realized there are many rabbit holes that could be explored and talking about Veteran friendly/supportive signals – ever hear about the Green Light for Vets? There is much that doesn’t get done in Canada on this front. That gives me more material to put together more cohesive, and shorter blog posts in future.
The reality is…
All this makes me wonder – I will eventually be a retired Veteran with Cancer. Who do I work with to ensure that my needs are looked after?
- TO BE CONTINUED.
I have much more to say on this issue, how to articulate it properly will be key.