Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vets lose tiger in their corner

By PETER WORHTINGTON,Toronto Sun

Last Updated: August 17, 2010 7:22pm

They appointed him as the first veterans’ ombudsman on Remembrance Day 2007, and they’re firing him on Remembrance Day 2010.

“They” is the Harper government, and the ombudsman whose appointment is not being renewed is retired Colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the first Battle Group (Princess Pats) to serve in Kandahar in 2002.

So why is this exemplary soldier being bounced, whose dedication to the troops is unquestioned? Good question. The answer: Because he took his terms of reference seriously and fought hard and loudly on behalf of veterans.

When the government announced the role in 2007, it said the ombudsman was to be “an impartial, arms-length and independent officer with the responsibility to assist veterans to pursue their concerns and advance their interests.” Pat Stogran seemed a perfect fit. A field commander, somewhat outspoken, he is on record as observing that government tends to regard wounded veterans as accident victims, which is a cop-out and justification for doing little.

As the watchdog on behalf of veterans he’s been relentless, ruffling the feathers of some by his concern for vets who fall through the cracks, are homeless, whose nature is not to complain, but who may be casualties from their service.

Those wounded in war, be it from physical or mental injuries, are special because they were damaged in the name of the country, and their country (or those who run the country) have an obligation to honour their future well-being.

Authorizing a lump sum payment to wounded vets in Afghanistan of some $250,000 instead of long-term pensions, seems more cop-out by government than a gesture of gratitude.

It’s seen as an abdication of future responsibilities, while supposedly compensating veterans for whatever disabilities they have sustained. In other words, they are on their own. That’s a continuing issue of contention in Canada.

If not, it should be. It worries Stogran.

As a battalion field commander, Stogran had a “warrior” mentality that dictated he look after his men, and do what he could on their behalf. With the Princess Patricias in Afghanistan, he won the regiment the respect of American allies, and Canada an esteem that was often missing during the dog-years of passive peacekeeping.

Our efforts in Afghanistan have vaulted Canada back into the ranks of consequence. Canada and its soldiers are taken seriously. But the government seems to be backing off — and the reluctance of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to renew Stogran’s mandate as ombudsman, seems symptomatic of the Canada’s shift away from the military, and Afghanistan.

Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn is hardly a tiger on behalf of vets and is unlikely to defy DND or the PM if they want a noisy advocate like Stogran sidelined and silenced.

If Blackburn were to protest the replacing of Stogran in a manner similar to his protestations when airport security confiscates a bottle of his tequila, perhaps the vets could be assured or a spokesman on their behalf.

To his credit, Stogran is more soldier than politician. A battalion commander is, arguably, the highest rank that thoroughly understands the rank and file.

General officers tend to be more political, with one eye ever-open for promotion. Battalion commanders deal directly with soldiers and the enemy.

Canadian Press says news of Stogran’s dismissal “went off like a bombshell” among veterans. It’s true. Veterans can read the signs and feel how the political wind is blowing. In Ottawa these days, it’s about saving money.

Rudyard Kipling said it best: “It’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the Brute!’/ But it’s ‘Saviour of ’is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.” The shooting hasn’t stopped: They got Pat Stogran – and all veterans.

4 comments:

惠邱邱邱邱雯 said...

原來天鵝嫁給癩蛤蟆就會生出醜小鴨。。。

冠州 said...

好文章,希望能一直看到您的PO文......................................................

Sarah Sofia Granborg said...

testing

Sarah Sofia Granborg said...

Alright, my comment seems to come through normally... wonder why you have all these weird Chinese comments everywhere?!

Anyways, I just saw a your comment on one of my blogs among other things talking about Emmylou Harris... thanks for that comment, it was so touching and honest, it really meant something!
You should know that for the time being my "Living in Scandinavia"-blog is private. This is because I need to tidy up my blogs and take anything too weird and too private out of them, while at the same time I'm working on a big building project... so it's kind of difficult to find enough time to do it fast enough...
but if you wanna contact me you can find my e-mail on my profile/blog or you could leave a message on one of the blogs which are open right now. But I doubt that they will have your interest, they're actually business-blogs...

Anyways, thanks for your comment, but also for the great posts here.
Disgraceful how many countries treat their vets! good you've brought this post! And something else... You wouldn't happen to know what happened to Semrau? I thought the sentencing was supposed to be in the beginning of September... or did I remember it wrongly?
I just really can't believe just how badly he's been f...ed for doing the right thing! What kind of a signal does that send?!