Artistically, this piece is something of a departure for me. But its an issue that’s close to my heart….
Back in 1981 I sat in a movie theatre and watched the Peter Weir film Gallipoli. It was a movie I would go back to see several more times. And every time the last, powerful frame lingered on the screen – right before the credits rolled – I was moved to tears. It also lit a fire in me – I wanted to become a filmmaker. My first career was born in that darkened theatre.
That movie also cultivated in me a deep interest in the stories of men and women during war. I read all I could get my hands on about the First World War – and most particularly the Australian involvement in the Gallipoli campaign. Over recent years, a pilgrimage to Gallipoli has become almost a right of passage for many young Australians. And I think that’s wonderful – it was the real founding of Australia – where thousands of young men gave their blood for the country.
When you read the letters written by soldiers waiting in trenches before almost certain death, its impossible not to be heartbroken. These were all individuals with hopes and dreams. Many of them were little more than teenagers. And they gave their lives willingly so we could remain free.
Although the Great War was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, we were embroiled in yet another global conflict only two decades later. And the wars keep going on. As much as I would love to see a world at peace, I’ve lived enough life to realise that is a hopeless fantasy. But while ever there are men and women ready to heed the call, we can live in a relative peace. We don’t go to bed at night afraid. And that’s because of the brave souls who protect us.
I am acutely aware of the debt we owe these people. Stretching all the way back to that Great War.
So it was with dismay that I watched the Canadian PM inform a wounded veteran last week that “they” (veterans) are asking for “more than we have to give”. According to Trudeau, that’s the reason the government is currently in court fighting veterans over their benefits.
Not surprisingly, there has been an uproar about that comment. The truth is that there was no response he could have given that would have been satisfactory: the government fighting veterans in court is unconscionable. An article in the Huffington Post said it best – the liability for soldiers is unlimited and in return the liability for the government should also be unlimited. How do you ever compensate someone for the loss of a life, a limb or their peace of mind in the service of the country?
These are the people who should be at the very top of the priority list for the government. Because without them what sort of country would we have?
An Endless War
I’ve seen first hand the destruction that follows in the wake of PTSD acquired through military service. And perhaps that’s part of the problem – so many are so far removed from the reality of life for veterans that it simply doesn’t register. Today’s wars have been dragging on for years and are no longer front page news. But the fight goes on every single day for our servicemen and women. They cannot pack up at the end of the day and go home. They cannot rest easy. They do not rest easy…so that we can.
But the war doesn’t end once they come home or even when they leave the service. In some ways their personal war is just beginning. And I can tell you from personal experience that it is heartbreaking. Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population in Canada. In the US there are 30 veteran suicides for every 14 civilian suicides. Add to that homelessness, addiction and destructive impacts on relationships. We should hang our heads in shame.
And the truth is that all veterans pay with their lives. Some pay all at once, while others pay over a lifetime. ~ JM Storm
We need to do more than just attend Remembrance Day or ANZAC Day ceremonies. Our veterans need support year round. And that is why I became so angry at Trudeau’s response.
This artwork grew out of that anger and frustration.
If you have served, I thank you for your service.
And it is my greatest hope that all those who are currently in the forces will receive the care and assistance they need so that they can finally, truly, come home.
Those of us who have not experienced war or conflict can’t ever possibly understand. While some wounds are visible, many are not.
They swore a duty to serve and protect their country.
We have a duty to serve and protect them.
How Can You Help?
If you know of someone in crisis click here.
There are organizations you can donate money or time to that help veterans. These are just some: