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Remember The Battles Fought On The Frontlines And At Home

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By Shelly Whitman and Scott Maxwell

Today, Canada is participating in multiple operations in the Middle East, in Europe alongside NATO and across five United Nations missions. In the near future our deployments are set to expand as Canada prioritizes a re-engagement in broader peace and security operations from the United Nations to NATO.

As November 11th approaches we take time to reflect upon the cost and sacrifice of those who gave their life in the service of our nation. It is also an important opportunity to remember and understand, as a nation, the service and sacrifice made by our ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and their families -- living with the physical and mental scars of conflict and war.

The costs of war are borne by all, from those on the front lines to the spouses, families and communities who serve on the home front. As such, it is critical that we focus not only on the short-term investment that a mission requires, but the life-cycle costs and resources requisite for any mission.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire recently released his memoir Waiting for First Light. In it he offers a harrowing and deeply personal account of the costs of war and how incredibly difficult it was to transition from the military life he adored to a civilian lifestyle that required new skills and new ways of operating to life outside of the uniform.

As a nation, we must become sensitized and understand the lived experiences of our soldiers. Moreover, we can further strengthen our nation and our world if we give a meaningful place and opportunity to those who have served once they step out of their uniform.

Dallaire found solace in his work for both children affected by armed conflict and in supporting the needs of veterans who had served Canada. As a result, he founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and became the National Patron of Wounded Warriors Canada.

The connections to his experience with children in armed conflict, combined with Wounded Warriors Canada's mission to improve the situation of ill and injured veterans and their families, has proven to be a great partnership.

Through a unique approach pioneered by the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, and funded by Wounded Warriors Canada, we have paired the skills that soldiers possess and the understanding of the moral injuries incurred through Canada's missions abroad to create the Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) Program. This program aims to address the moral dilemmas faced by soldiers in the field through creating a solution that capitalizes on the skills veterans possess.

"Skills transition", as part of the overall transition to civilian life spectrum, remains a critical gap for our veterans. While the need for mental, physical and financial supports are absolutely critical, it is often the skills that veterans have honed and forged on the battlefield that are not effectively translated to life as a civilian.

As many Canadian, and other soldiers, face children in armed conflict, they are faced with a set of the most horrific moral dilemmas in modern warfare. Such moral dilemmas often are credited with giving rise to increasing levels of post-traumatic stress disorder amongst soldiers. The key therefore is how do we reduce this possibility for both the children in armed conflict and our soldiers who are sent abroad?

While at first glance leading an armored convey in Kandahar and operating within a boardroom may not have much in common, they relate in many ways. You quickly realize both positions require and prize leadership, negotiating skills, and foresight to accomplish their respective missions.

This Remembrance Day let's not only remember the battles fought abroad but the daily battles we should be bold enough to take on to protect children and assist veterans.

The skills accrued may not have been constructed in a traditional education and apprenticeship in business however they are no less valuable or needed. As a nation, we must become sensitized and understand the lived experiences of our soldiers. Moreover, we can further strengthen our nation and our world if we give a meaningful place and opportunity to those who have served once they step out of their uniform.

War has changed. And so should our approach to how we support those who have served. On this Remembrance Day let's not only remember the battles fought abroad but the daily battles we should be bold enough to take on to protect children and assist veterans.

Dr. Shelly Whitman is the Executive Director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and Scott Maxwell is the Executive Director of Wounded Warriors Canada

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