Month: April 2017

The wounded
Health

The wounded

Essay and photography by Stephen J. Thorne They have been the forgotten heroes of wars from time immemorial, all but invisible as they swim the seas and scale the mountains that their wounds, physical and psychological, have laid before them. It’s the war dead who get the attention. And rightly so, the wounded will say. Most don’t seek sympathy or accolades in their sacrifice and struggles, triumphs and defeats. They emerge from the shadows to demand what is due, and recede again. “With regard to my stories,” wrote one soldier, who politely declined to participate in this project, “I’d prefer to keep them in my head. It’s nothing against you or the public, but I would rather be the quiet professional and put the war behind me.” Many say they have changed, that their ordeals...
Commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Pilgrimages, Remembrance

Commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge

More than 25,000 people attended the April 9th ceremony to commemorate the achievements and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers 100 years ago at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The ceremony included speeches by dignitaries from Canada, Britain and France, as well as musical and acting performances. Some 100,000 soldiers fought in the four-day battle, which marked the first time all four Canadian divisions fought together side by side. The success, however, came at a heavy cost of more than 10,600 casualties, including nearly 3,600 killed. The victory at Vimy empowered Canada to step away from Britain’s shadow and forge a new identity as a strong, independent nation. Story and photography by Stephanie Slegtenhorst Canadian Cadets stand at attention during the singing of the Canadian national...
How independent should an ombudsman be?
Front Lines

How independent should an ombudsman be?

Like his predecessors, military ombudsman Gary Walbourne is engaged in what appears to be a futile battle for independence from his masters at the Department of National Defence and in the Canadian Armed Forces. In his March report, entitled The Case for a Permanent and Independent Ombudsman Office, Walbourne notes that the principles of the ombudsman have been developed, studied and tested since the 19th century. Those principles seem obvious: independence, impartiality, fairness and confidentiality. “Without these foundational principles, the ombudsman’s credibility and operational effectiveness are at risk,” Walbourne writes. “Independence from the organization subject to review must be entrenched in legislation. “Otherwise, the ombudsman is at risk of repercussions followin...
Defeating “two big ills”
Health

Defeating “two big ills”

Wounded while fighting off an attack on his observation post, Gorden Boivin eventually beat back his physical and psychological demons Story and photography by Stephen J. Thorne From darkness, there is light. Corporal Gorden Boivin knows this only too well. Boivin’s descent into darkness began with a firefight at Checkpoint 3 in Panjwaii District, at the very perimeter of Canadian operations in Afghanistan. It was Nov. 22, 2007, and Boivin, of Sorel, Que., was a radioman with the Royal 22nd Regiment, the vaunted Vandoos. There were 24 of them stationed at the last checkpoint west of the last forward operating base, west of Kandahar. They were surrounded by enemy 24/7. Their area of operations was so hot the helicopters wouldn’t come. There was only one road in and out, ...
Mementoes from Afghanistan
Artifacts

Mementoes from Afghanistan

Uniforms, equipment and explosives are reminders of Canada’s involvement in Southwest Asia   Though fresh in memory, the war in Afghanistan has entered the annals of national history. Aside from personal mementoes brought home by military and civilian personnel, museums have begun building their collections of artifacts. Bruce Tascona, director of Legion House Museum in Winnipeg, carefully lays out an artifact from the war in Afghanistan, an IED —improvised explosive device—confiscated from a captured terrorist. “We were using the latest in technology, smart bombs and the like, and facing an enemy that made weapons from stuff you could get at any hardware store,” said Tascona. Explosives and shrapnel—ball bearings, nails and screws, tin cans cut into bits—would have been p...
General takes new approach on the transition to civilian life
Front Lines

General takes new approach on the transition to civilian life

The chief of the defence staff has a theory: happy retirees make for more and better recruits. Appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, General Jonathan Vance said recruitment, training and treatment of Canadian Armed Forces personnel is “at a turning point.” It has to be. “I think it’s a truism that if you leave well, content, satisfied and looking back on your career,” he said, “then you will provide more of a positive reinforcement to those who may wish to join. “If people don’t think that they’re being treated well, that we are not looking after them, then they won’t come and work for us and they won’t willingly risk their lives. If we cannot attract and retain the talent we need, then we won’t have success on operations. It’s that simple.” Treating mil...

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