"As I mused, the fire burned"

Combat Veterans versus Non-Combat Veterans

with 4 comments

From a comment on a CTV story (http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20111105/veterans-hold-protests-over-budget-cuts-111105/#ixzz1cqr6XP9g)

We need to distinguish between COMBAT VETERANS and NONCOMBAT VETERANS (career desk jockeys and others who may have served in the military but faced no more peril than bad coffee). I fully support doing everything and anything for our combat veterans, especially those suffering grievous psychological and physical incapacitation. However, the ones that fall into the category of NONCOMBAT VETERAN deserve nothing more than any anyone else. Sorry, but lots of people outside the military suffer far worse than this. Stop thinking of everyone in the military as a war hero because the honour of that title belongs to a very small percentage.

and a second one:

Give your head a shake. Canada has an all volunteer force. That means nobody is “asked” to serve their country. You have to want to. And no, a veteran is not a veteran is not a veteran. You mean to tell me some guy who loses a leg to an IED is the same as some lifer DND-HQ person who ordered office supplies? Give me a break. All veterans are certainly not the same. For most the military is a job, nothing more. For a handful it’s a life altering event. For those who have sacrificed their lives or their health and well being, our undying gratitude and our unending financial support. For the rest, you’re no different than a retiring plumber or a retiring postie or a retiring garbage man. As Canadians we all do our part to make this country a better place, some in uniform and some without. A NON COMBAT veteran deserves nothing more than their pension and a pat on the back. Sorry, but did you volunteer for the perks or did you volunteer for your country?

(ed note: it isn’t the clerks in NDHQ that are the ones claiming VAC benefits for serious injuries.)

It is hard to describe how angry such comments make me, even though they are borne entirely of ignorance. Ignorance of history, the place of the military in a first-world democracy, and of the law.

It also makes me think of past comadres who are now dead because of their military service, Rich Corver (who we called ‘Opie’) who died on a night mission in Inuvik…Hollis Tucker (who we called ‘Tuck’) who died on a day mission off Vancouver Island. When I compare those two (and several others whose memory I hold dear) to another comrade, Geoff Parker, killed by an IED in Afghanistan, I have no difficulty in seeing a great equality in their sacrifice…and I have no doubt that Geoff, Opie and Tuck would all agree with me.

The whole idea of somehow dividing those who die in combat with those who die in training is completely foreign to the entire ethos of the soldier. We look on those who have seen combat with great respect (and more than a little envy). You don’t spend decades of your life training for something, to not have a bit of envy at someone who has undergone the test of war and survived. Indeed, the soldier does not lust for combat, while at the same time knowing that there is no better test of his or her craft than the fog of war. In that test there is only one question of import – did I do my duty? did I let my buds down? That duty applies in non-combat and combat situations. In fact, a serious military always operates as if it is in combat – training like they will fight.

Ignorant of the law, because the soldier can’t be easily equated to other civilian professions (see my comments on police below). The police come as the closest fit, but to suggest that a soldier injured out of combat is on the same ground as a miner injured in a mine collapse displays complete ignorance of the law. First, all workers in a province fall under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, Employment Standards¬†and Workers’ Compensation Legislation…except for the soldiers. There is no OH&S that covers a soldier. That means no stop work orders, no OH&S officers inspecting job sites, and no ability to refuse to follow a lawful order – even if that order means your death. I’m also very familiar with Veterans Affairs benefits and the WCB system, intimately with both of them in fact. There are aspects of VAC that are better, but the WCB system provides more benefits, more medical aid and more rehabilitation support more quickly and more directly than VAC. You’ll have to take my word on that, but as I’m a VAC client myself…and have at this point reviewed over 400 WCB files in fine detail, I’m pretty confident about that assessment. {and the biggest point I missed: no soldier is an employee, unlike every other job referred to in those ignorant comments}

It is also ignorant of the work of a soldier. One of my young technicians almost lost his thumb while working…early, early morning hooking up a weapons trailer to tow live missiles to load the NORAD alert aircraft for a possible real-world scramble. What we used to call DCO = defence of Canada ops, and something we did many more of after 911. I would be hard pressed to call any of the people I worked with “desk jockeys”, as they were exposed to real risk on a daily basis, and risk in excess of that faced by most civilians, even in non-combat.

Have you ever seen a live fire mission in training? Those shells will kill you no less dead than shots fired in combat. Have you ever flown at 100 ft AGL at 350 knots on a strike mission in training? Have you ever shaped a brick of C4 or DM-12 to destroy 500lb GP bombs which fell and went dud after a training drop (after having to dig them out of the muskeg with a front-end loader)? There aren’t many plumbers facing unexploded munitions, neither are there many carpenters firing CRV-7 rockets in a steep dive from a fighter aircraft. That is all ‘non-combat’ work.

The list goes on, and I can think of a 100 other things that distingush the risk faced by a soldier, in peace, that make most workplace hazards pale by comparison. Are there dangerous civilian jobs? Yup, and they’re surrounded by legislation that provides protection and regulation (including the role of unions), all of which is denied the soldier even when he is performing work identical to that of a civilian counterpart.

Ignorant of the place of the military, because of the unlimited liability to serve that comes with the vocation of arms. There is no other vocation that asks its followers to die if required by the mission. None. This includes the police and firefighters and EMS, who regularly expose themselves to risk, but cannot be ordered to do so. That unlimited liability is the defining characteristic of the profession of arms, and it is the reason why the only person who can call another ‘civilian’ is a soldier (when I regularly hear police refer to the population as ‘civilians’ I have to point out that the police are necessarily civilians as well…much of the abuse of the law at the hands of police, I am convinced, can be traced back to that category error in their status in a free society). I regularly have people argue this point – but if you haven’t been a student of history, and haven’t read up on the ethos of the soldier, don’t bother objecting because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Ignorant of history. How many of the WW II veterans we honour actually served in combat? The reality of warfare is that most of the military force involved are in support roles not exposed to enemy fire, and least directly or frequently. Most of those we honour as veterans of past wars, who wear the same medals as their comrades who carried rifles, were never ‘combat’ veterans. Does this make any sense?

Finally, on the question of psychological injuries, I also have to disagree. A soldier who watches his buddies die in a training accident can be no less traumatized than one in combat. In some cases it is worse, because when you have an enemy to focus on it provides some degree of protection against those injuries. I’ve done things in my military service that are still heavy burdens I wrestle with today…and I never personally fired a shot in anger. Sometimes knowing that you’re deciding how to best kill several hundred people at once, and using your years of training and experience to do so, leaves a mark on you even if you never had to pull the trigger. Sometimes, the act of loading the rifle is enough.

So, I get quite heated when I read these comments, even as I know they are made in complete ignorance. The prime reason is that they tarnish the sacrifice of a handful of my friends and comrades who left behind barely enough to bury…and all while involved in ‘training’ far from any threat of enemy action. Can you imagine their young sons and daughters reading those ignorant comments and wondering about the death of their parent as a “non-combat” event. Yup, my reaction exactly.

And a follow-up post on this same topic.

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Written by sameo416

November 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. I only made it through a paragraph before I realized how backwards your views are. Maybe it’s different up in Canada, but as a USA non-combat veteran, my life was in constant danger for well over 2 years, serving just shy of 3 years. There are multiple instances where I luckily made it out of the situation alive. I wore body armor in a foreign land for 365 days. I’m considered non-combat but after talking to multiple combat vets, some were actually in safer situations IN IRAQ than I ever was, never going to Iraq. But hey, think what you want, you bias, prejudice bastard. Hold those combat vets high up on a pedestal while you forget the other brothers and sisters and leave them behind. I meet non-combat vets every day with so much trauma from what they went through (yes people died), that you can barely get them to talk about it. Generally, it happens in an area that “isn’t at war” so even though there is risk, and people die, and bombs go off, and lives are in danger, the status of “combat veteran” is never awarded to these individuals. So they go on in the night, silently, treated like they accomplished nothing, as if they’re somehow worth LESS than the combat vet, often being misdiagnosed with things like Bi-Polar and ADHD due to their anger and constant racing mind. Same symptoms as PTSD. Unfortunately with all the real COMBAT vets around, nobody has time to treat these somehow less than par veterans.

    I for one am sick of pretending shit didn’t happen and for anybody who truly thinks their somehow better because of their combat status and for those who think non-combat vets consist of people who pulled desk duty and HQ duty…. F–K YOU! For real. You don’t know s–t about s–t and your ignorance will be your downfall. But what difference does it truly make. The more the WAR veterans are glorified, the more the silent hero’s off themselves in the night cause nobody cares, listens, or even wants them around. They just, aren’t worth a damn.

    I disagree and simply say F–K YOU to anybody who thinks they’re better than a non-combat vet. Doesn’t take combat to develop PTSD. It takes a life threatening event. Period.

    No you may not have my name.

    April 27, 2012 at 1:41 am

    • …and I made the first two paragraphs block quotations so they stand out better as not my thinking, but the commments I’m responding to.


      April 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

  2. rofl I guess I should’ve read paragraph 3! Clearly non-combat vets have just as much anger as combat vets. I wouldn’t have spewed all that after the second paragraph if that wasn’t the case. rofl!

    Btw, yes, I know people who have even died in training. My drill sergeant was K.I.T. in a live fire that the military quotes as “perfectly safe”. It’s my affirmation that if you make it through basic, you have PTSD. That’s the point of basic. to traumatize, brainwash, and prepare the mind for the stressors of warfare. and anytime bullets are flying over your head, regardless of they may lead you to believe, your life is in much danger.

    the a--hole who posted last

    April 27, 2012 at 1:48 am

    • I left those two comments as is (except to edit out the profanity, as this is a ‘family-friendly’ site) because the poster makes my point perfectly…along with reflecting much more directly the kind of anger I feel at people who do not understand the distinction.

      The reason it makes me so angry is because I still feel responsible for my co-workers and the troops I commanded who were injured in ‘training’ or ‘non-combat’ activities. And to sum up my argument in one sentence: there is no such thing as ‘non-combat’ for the military, because every task is focused only on either combat or training for combat.

      (…and of course, I am a ‘non-combat’ veteran who was left permanently disabled by reason of a MVA while I was on duty…at a place and a time I would not have been but for that military duty)

      I also missed one of the main differences in the law…that a soldier can never sue his employer for negligence. So when the body armour is not up to the task, or an IED death or injury happens because there are no helicopters to fly the troops over the roadways, a soldier cannot use the legal protections in place for every other person who works in Canada. A soldier follows orders, even if those orders place then at much higher risk, or even if those orders will certainly result in their death.

      That’s the reason I continue to advocate for those ‘non-combat’ veterans, and particularly the injured veterans. There is a real danger that the citizenry will lose site of those, with the large number of combat injuries coming back from the sandbox.

      My November 11th talks this year are going to be focused on these other veterans.


      April 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

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