VETERAN’S RALLY – ST. JOHN’S NF

Jeff Rose-Martland – Author and now Professional Public Speaker

Jeff Rose-Martland is a native of Harbour Grace, now residing in nearby St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. A former radio announcer, defunct theatre technician, and recovering call centre agent, Jeff divides his time between writing and raising his son. Jeff’s work has appeared in a wide variety of publications. His debut novel Game Misconduct received the 2005 Percy Janes First Novel award and is now available through most online booksellers. His creative non-fiction First Call Resolution was short-listed for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards.

(This article sent to me by Len Campbell from Nanaimo, B.C. – CAPER)

Speech begins below: 

It seems that I am in a rare position regarding this issue.  I am not 
a politician, nor am I veteran.  I gain neither votes nor benefits by 
speaking here today.  I also have nothing to lose: I am not a veteran 
or an employee of Veterans’ Affairs, not a member of the Mounted, not 
a soldier of the Forces, not the Veterans’ Ombudsman – I don’t
risk my job or benefits by speaking up.  I am simply a citizen. 

When I was preparing for this event, I had plenty of advice on what to 
say.  Put a face on it, they said, tell everyone about the heartache 
and trouble caused by Veterans’ Affairs.  They wanted me to give 
examples.  To tell you about individuals who have been failed by our 
country.   They wanted me to name names, to discuss cases, to play 
upon your heart strings to get your support.  Well, I’m not going to 
do that.  I don’t believe that you need faces and names, anymore than 
I believe that sympathy is the solution. 

I WANT THIS WARRIOR ON MY SIDE

So I am not going to tell you about the decorated hero who brought 
helped bring peace to Cyprus, who received the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize, 
who has brought prestige to our flag and represents the peacekeeping 
we are all so proud of.  I won’t tell you about the battle he has 
fought with Veterans Affairs – a battle longer than his Cyprus 
mission.  I will not go in to details about long and solitary fights 
over $2500 for hearing aids – fights he keeps losing because Veteran’s 
Affairs refuses to understand that four days firing artillery might 
cause hearing loss. 

Nor will I go into details about the Brigadier General who is dying of 
cancer; Cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange.  He is not unique; 
there are thousands just like him, fighting for benefits on their 
death beds.  I won’t raise the name of Brian Dyck, ALS victim and 
tireless advocate, who was fighting for his benefits just weeks before 
his death. 

I won’t discuss the RCMP veterans: those who kept the peace side-by- 
side with Forces Personnel, gaining the same injuries, who returned 
home to discover that their different uniform meant they were less 
entitled and less veterans. 

Nor will I espouse at great length about veterans living on the 
streets or about them using food banks, or even about the fact that 
there IS a food bank especially for veterans.  We are all aware of 
those shameful facts. 

To illustrate the failure of the lump-sum payment, I was asked to 
locate a particular Peacekeeper – one of those who was chained to a 
lamp post in Bosnia – who was later blown up, losing an arm, a leg, 
and an eye in service to his Nation, to bring peace to a conflict, and 
for the prestige of us all.  But I will not drag this hero up here to 
tell us how we treated him, to tell us that his award paid for an 
accessible house and a wheelchair, but not enough for an accessible 
van or to provide for his family, to show us his injuries and tell us 
about his family on welfare.  I would not further denigrate this 
Veteran by parading his wounds and betrayal today, just to put a face 
on this farce. 

Breaking Your Heart at His Loss

It was also suggested that I have all the facts and figures.  Get your 
information in order, they said.  Tell them about percentages and 
amortizations, how veterans won’t be able to live on those lump-sum 
payments.  Tell the people about the money the government is saving by 
eliminating monthly pensions.  Talk about the unfairness of taxing 
death benefits, they said, Tell the public about the claw-backs from 
our insurance plans which guarantee will we have the same income no 
matter what new initiative is launched.  The veterans wanted me to 
detail all the failings of Veterans Affairs: a system that Colonel 
Stogran himself describes as broken and incomprehensible.  They 
thought that if I presented you with the facts, you would understand. 
Well, I’ve read the facts and I don’t understand!  I don’t understand 
how there can be more than 20 different classifications of veteran.  I 
don’t understand why the system has become so complicated that no one 
seems to know what a veteran is entitled to.  And I really don’t 
understand how senior staff and ministers of any government department 
can break privacy laws in order to silence critics and go unpunished. 
I don’t understand any of that, so I’m not going to try to explain it 
to you. 

RCMP Veterans of Afghanistan Provide Comfort

Nor am I going to prattle on at great length about the fabulous work 
done by the RCMP and Canadian Forces.  Around the world, the image of 
the Mountie is synonymous with Canada, representing justice and 
determination.  In uncounted nations, the blue beret and the maple 
leaf mean peace, freedom, and help.  Other countries are known for 
flags or fast food, our country is recognized for our police and 
military.  I don’t need to remind YOU about the work these people do 
at home, either.  None of us like speeding tickets, but what do you 
want to see when you are stuck in a ditch in a snowstorm?  Just like 
me, you want to see a beaver hat with a buffalo badge!  More than any 
other province, we know what the Canadian Forces do.  We know about 
Search and Rescue, about people jumping out of perfectly good 
helicopters into the raging North Atlantic to save sailors from 
drowning.  We know, all too well, all too recently, how much we need 
the Canadian Forces.  When Igor devastated this island, who rebuilt 
bridges and roads to cut-off communities?  Who met our pleas, without 
question, without thought, without consideration for themselves?  It 
is easy to think of a veteran as a warrior, but Canada has shown that 
police and military can do so much more than fight and arrest.  But 
you already know that, so I don’t need to tell you. 

By now, you’re probably thinking: For a guy who’s not saying anything, 
he’s talking an awful lot!  And you’d be right!  But finally, here is 
what I am going to talk about: responsibility. 

143 years ago, Canada invented responsible government.  We founded 
ourselves on responsibility, on the belief that it is not enough to 
rule and to be ruled, but that we must be responsible for each other 
and to each other.  And that sense of responsibility has forged our 
national character.  We settle our arguments not by standing firm but 
by seeing the other point of view.  We celebrate our cultures, knowing 
that our differences make us stronger, not weaker.  We are secure, not 
by looking at our own fence but by looking at each others’.  We built 
a social safety net because we understand that in helping each other, 
we also help ourselves.  We consider how our actions affect each 
other.  We stand together in crisis, prepared to do what is required. 

We clear snow from each other’s driveways. 

As Canadians, we have taken this sense of responsibility to the world, 
leading by doing.  We have exported these ideas and values around the 
globe.  We championed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights 32 years 
before we declared ours at home.  We showed everyone how soldiers 
could keep peace instead of make war.  All because we feel 
responsible. 

And these veterans, these men and women of our Canadian Forces and 
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they feel an even greater 
responsibility: a responsibility to serve our national need.  A 
responsibility to stand between us and harm.  A responsibility to get 
us out of trouble.  A responsibility to do whatever needs doing.  A 
responsibility to answer our call, to follow our will, to hold firm, 
to disregard their interests in favour of ours’.  They are willing to 
sacrifice their desires, their bodies, their minds, because we asked 
them to do so. 

An Oldtimer in his Chair

And how have we repaid them? 

We have failed to meet our own responsibilities. 

When I learned of the problems at Veterans Affairs, I could not see 
how such a thing could happen.  I, like many of you, automatically 
assumed veterans were looked after.  I was sure this was a long 
settled matter: that those who serve our country should be 
automatically cared for.  I thought perhaps there may be a small 
matter, something overlooked, which could be easily remedied.  I was 
not prepared for the length and breadth and depth of the failures. 

I was not prepared for such silencing of critics.  For members of the 
mounted, express concern about your benefits and get fired.  For 
veterans affairs employees, talk about systemic failures and get 
fired.  For members of the Forces, say anything out of turn and 
possibly get jailed!  The veterans’ ombudsman, the man paid to find 
the problems, did so and was let go.  The veterans themselves: speak 
up and find your benefits slashed, your name blackened, your sanity 
called into question. 

In fact, I may be the only one present who can speak freely! 

For months, I have been watching politicians and bureaucrats playing 
pass-the-blame and score-with-the-voter and get-your-picture-taken- 
with-a-veteran while the issues persist.  There is a lot of talk but 
no action, much feeling but no movement, plenty of pointing but 
nothing poignant. 

As a Canadian, I am here today to meet my responsibilities. 

To all veterans of the RCMP and Canadian Forces, and those who have 
sacrificed along with them: 

Thank you for serving.  I am sorry for any mistreatment you have 
suffered. 

And to Parliament, to those whom we elect to tend to our 
responsibilities, those who are responsible to us, we want your 
instructions perfectly clear: 

Through Hell and Back

Take Care of Our Veterans! 

Go back to Ottawa and get to work.  Ask those that know where the 
problems lie and follow their solutions.  Waste no more time in 
passing blame; stand to your responsibility, tend to our veterans, and 
do so without further delay.  People are suffering and dying while you 
debate and your inaction reflects badly on us, the people of Canada. 

Citizens, join me now in sending that message to Ottawa in clear and 
certain terms: 

Take Care of Our Veterans! 

This Rally is over.  May we never have to do this again. 

(Spoken like a true Newfoundlander – CAPER)

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bette (Ryan) Turnbull on November 16, 2010 at 15:29

    WOW! Hope the right people are listening.

    Reply

  2. I was present at that speech and Jeff was as eloquent a speaker as he is a writer. Visit http://www.ourduty.org to see what else his sense of commitment to Our Veterans is all about! Thank you Jeff.

    Reply

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