There's nothing quite like the Olympics.
The sportsmanship, the drama, the unabashed pride we feel in our country and the athletes who, after years of hard work and sacrifice, finally get the chance to live their dreams.
It can be hard not to get caught up in it all.
And harder still to pay attention to much else.
But as we turn our eyes to Sochi, a veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan is hoping some of our athletes might help raise attention about some issues back home.
Bruce Moncur, who still has shrapnel in his brain from a deadly friendly fire incident in 2006, is asking Canadian Olympians who make it to the podium to consider thanking a veteran — any veteran — after thanking their loved ones and supporters, of course.
Moncur believes such a gesture would speak volumes.
Here is an open letter shared this week with HuffPost Canada.
To the Canadian athletes who are representing our country at the Sochi Olympics:
First, let me congratulate you on a lifetime of perseverance, hard work, and determination that has led you to the 2014 games. Your example is an inspiration to all Canadians, and you should be extremely proud to represent our country in Russia.
Whether you realize it or not, you are heroes to us all; beacons of hope whose example will be emulated by millions. And it is because of the powerful role you play in our nation that I write you this letter.
As you may or may not know, another group of Canadian heroes, our veterans, are in dire need of help. Canada's Department of Veterans Affairs is broken; the services veterans thought were in place to protect them physically and mentally are not being delivered. We the veterans are being ignored, discouraged, and forgotten.
And so I write to you now having fallen deep between the cracks, unable to get our voices heard by the politicians responsible for fixing this broken system.
I ask, on behalf of all veterans across Canada, that when you win the medals that you are bound to receive, after you have thanked your parents, coaches, loved ones, and friends, you make the choice to thank a veteran. Whether it is your brother, father, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, close friend, or frankly, anyone whose name you know that served for this great nation, I ask you to recognize them.
Make our fellow Canadians aware of their sacrifices. Your words will reach millions and your support will show those listening that you, like all Canadians, remember the veterans. As you are celebrating what will be one of the greatest moments of your life, remember that from your success you can help ease the difficulties that plague the veterans today.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics are an opportunity for Canadian athletes to make history, not just from your incredible athletic achievements, but because you can spark change back at home. Please help us in our plight to show the Canadian government that all veterans deserve support.
All the best,
Veterans issues have been top of mind since Parliament returned in January.
Eight members of the Canadian Armed Forces have committed suicide in just over two months, raising serious questions about mental health support for veterans.
Eight regional Veterans Affairs offices closed last week, sparking protests from ex-soldiers who dispute that they will still receive support online and at 650 Service Canada locations.
And Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has faced calls for his resignation for clashing with a group of veterans — including Moncur — at a meeting in Ottawa.
Fantino showed up more than hour late and stormed out in a huff after taking exception to a veteran's hand gesture.
Fantino apologized in the House for his behaviour but days later blamed the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union behind Veterans Affairs staffers, for spreading misinformation about how the government is treating its vets.
"I feel so badly for the veterans who really have been caught up as the meat in the sandwich for this whole thing," he said.
In an interview with Newstalk 1010 on Sunday, Fantino argued he has no reason to step down.
"I've done nothing wrong," he said. "Why should I resign?"
Fantino also promised this week to conduct a full investigation into his department's mishandling of a personnel file linked to the Christmas Day suicide of Armed Forces veteran Leona MacEachern.
Her psychiatric files were uncovered in a Calgary snowbank and, adding insult to injury, CTV reported Veterans Affairs demanded her husband return $581 from her monthly disability cheque because she did not live the full month. The request came just days after her funeral.
"The victims in this are the men and women that are not receiving the services they have earned fighting for their county," he wrote. "Many of whom were ordered to fight by the very men and women in office today."
The Conservative government says it has invested $4.7-billion in funding for veterans benefits and services since coming to office in 2006.
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