By Bob Vrbanac
If anyone has had the privilege of visiting Canada’s overseas memorials to our honoured dead, the emotions they stir up aren’t easily described.
There’s the sadness at the loss, the lamenting of what could have been for those who gave their lives, and ultimately the pride that comes from the service and sacrifice they made for our country.
It’s hallowed ground, and people in countries like France and the Netherlands treat it as such with every day folks maintaining and keeping the memories of our fellow Canadians alive.
When I visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, I was immediately struck by the tragic beauty of the rolling hills still bearing the battle scars of an event that shaped our nation. And I stood awestruck in front of the gleaming white monument on the hill.
You can’t read and run your hand over the thousands of names etched in sadness and not be moved.
What also stuck me was that we are able to make these grand gestures and gracious allowances for our war dead overseas, but I have to wonder if we do enough for those who returned home.
The most recent example of whether we’re doing enough comes with the Royal Canadian Legion call for Veterans Affairs to increase funding to help cover the costs of burying Canada’s impoverished veterans.
The Last Post Fund gives $3,600 to ex-soldiers who qualify as opposed to the $12,700 funeral benefit for those currently serving in the Canadian Forces.
The Legion is also asking the federal government to remove the red tape and speed up the approval process. The Legion argues all the paperwork amounts to obstruction on the part of the bureaucrats, and they have a point.
A Canadian Press investigation found that more than two-thirds of the veterans who apply for the benefit are denied.
Of the 29,853 funding requests made since 2006, more than 20,000 were rejected for failing to meet the government means test.
The Legion and the KW Poppy Fund have done their part in the past to make up the difference. The Legion has decorated and commemorated the graves of veterans, marking their passing every Remembrance Day, while the Poppy Fund has provided assistance to veterans and their families.
But it seems the federal government is intent on nickel and diming these veterans as they leave us in increasing numbers due to the unceasing march of time.
The federal government does a good job in paying lip service to its support for our veterans, but only until it’s time to pull out the cheque- book.