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News - Afghanistan - 12 Jun 2013

News Item 6 of 28 

Afghanistan: 12 Jun 2013
Wounded Veteran can stay in Military after all

Cpl. Glen Kirkland
Credit: Bruce Bumstead, Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces have reversed its decision to kick a wounded Afghan veteran out of the military after the case was raised in the House of Commons for the second day in a row.
Days after testifying to a Commons committee last week about how poorly he and other wounded soldiers have been treated, the Canadian Forces informed Cpl. Glen Kirkland he was being released from the military because of medical reasons.But opposition MPs raised Kirkland’s case Monday and Tuesday in the Commons, hammering the government for its treatment of veterans.
On Tuesday the military backed down and told Kirkland he could stay in the army until he was ready to be discharged. Kirkland said he is happy with the turn of events, announced Tuesday in the Commons by Defence Minister Peter MacKay. “I’m very glad that he (MacKay) has publicly stated that all soldiers who have been wounded can stay in as long as they want,” Kirkland said. “It’s not just me now; he publicly stated that all wounded soldiers can stay.”
Kirkland was injured during an insurgent ambush that killed three of the five soldiers in his vehicle five years ago. “I had to pull myself while on fire, and through gunfire, to try to extract my dead and dying brothers-in-arms,” the 29-year-old Vancouver native told MPs at a Commons committee last week.
He said that he still suffers serious injuries from the attack, including partial loss of sight and 75 per cent loss of hearing. He also deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. “Survivor’s guilt haunts me every day,” he told the Commons committee. Kirkland also told MPs he feared retribution from senior officers for speaking out about how poorly the wounded are treated. Last week, MacKay called Kirkland a “true Canadian hero” and said the soldier would not face any retribution.
But days later, Kirkland was informed by the military that he was being medically discharged in six months. “Peter MacKay on Thursday said there would be no ramifications and that I could stay in the military as long as I want,” Kirkland explained Tuesday. “The next day I reported to the army base in Shilo and I was given my six month release papers.” “The timing seems kind of odd,” he added.
Last Friday night, just hours after Kirkland had already received notice he would be forced out of the military, the Canadian Forces was claiming it was prepared to help the soldier. “Cpl Kirkland’s chain of command will ensure he is made aware of all the benefits and entitlements available to him and will also ensure that he receives the care he needs and deserves,” noted the email sent that night to the Citizen by public affairs officer Lt. Michèle Tremblay.
“During his testimony, he covered a range of important subjects that touch upon how we care for our ill and injured service personnel,” the email added. “With the feedback of Cpl Kirkland and others, we will continue to improve our provision of care and make sure our personnel get the help and support they need.”
Liberal MP John McKay slammed the defence minister Monday for the military’s decision and on Tuesday both the Liberals and NDP raised the issue.
MacKay responded that all injured Canadian Forces members are not to be released from the military until they are prepared to do so. “There is a program specifically designed to help with that transition,” he said. “That will be the case for Cpl. Kirkland. That will be the case for injured members of the Canadian Forces on my watch.” © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

DAVID PUGILESE, Ottawa Citizen/jm
 

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