Today is November 11. I should be going to the Cenotaph like I always have done in the past. But this year I can’t do it. I’m too tired, too sad, too anxious. But I am also too angry. I am angry because I feel let down by those who were supposed to support us. On days like today, we will get a handshake and a ‘thank you’. But for the other 364 days of the year, families of injured soldiers often feel forgotten. We get nothing for caring for the injured soldiers that survived, which often means keeping them alive. We get nothing for giving up our careers, nothing for putting up with the shit that the military puts our spouses through, and we then get to pick up the pieces. Nothing for standing behind the person in uniform, propping them up, keeping them from collapsing in exhaustion from the harassment and the ostracisation by those that claim to be their ‘military family’.
I don’t want a medal or an award. I want honesty about what is really going on. What services are really available. What long-term therapeutic supports really do exist and are readily available (ie. not peer support or crisis management, but real, effective long-term treatment for long-term chronic issues). Honesty about what hoops we will have to jump through to access these services. Honesty about the time it will take to get what is owed to us, and how many times our paperwork may get lost and have to be redone. Honesty about the dozens and dozens of forms that we will need to complete and send to various offices, in various provinces, and we may never hear back from. Honesty about the number of individuals who will be looking at our paperwork, reading our story and talking about what we do and don’t deserve without ever having met us.
I want it acknowledged that many of our veterans who fought for our freedom came home to fight for their lives. I want it acknowledged that as sick as it may sound even to those who work there, there is some truth to the unspoken motto “Delay, Deny, Die” at Veteran’s Affairs (which I believe was coined by Jenny Migneault, a tireless advocate for families of injured vets).
I want it to be acknowledged that without our military families, there would be more suicides, more addicts, more homeless vets.
I want it to be acknowledged that because of the trauma that our soldiers have lived through, their families have suffered. Families have experienced vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and many have also lived through violence and abuse as a result of the members’ emotional state. Parents, spouses, and children have experienced anxiety and depression to the point they too needed medical intervention.
I want it acknowledged that the system is broken.
However, I would like to acknowledge the fact that we have met many caring individuals who work within these systems who are legitimately trying to help vets and their families. But the structure and culture they are forced to work in, does not often allow them to do what they know needs to be done. I believe this is a failure of leadership, on many levels, and I believe only leadership will be able to make the necessary changes so that these individuals, and more like them, can do the job that they want to do.
So today, on 11th, at 11am. I am acknowledging all of the soldiers, vets, spouses, parents, friends, and children affected by war at home or abroad.