Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering ...

Every year on November 11th, sometimes in clear brilliant sunshine, sometimes in blustering winds and sheets of rain, we gather around cenotaphs across the country to honour and show our gratitude to those who have given their lives or their health for our safety. Those who have come home injured, whether with physical wounds or operational stress injuries, have come back with their lives changed forever and their altered lives alter the lives of all who love them, particularly their family caregivers/ carepartners.

These family caregivers are as affected by their loved ones' injuries as their loved ones are themselves. No area of their lives is untouched. And yet, all too frequently, family caregivers are the unsung heros of our wars and peacekeeping missions. They are the glue holding families together during long or repeated deployments and once their partners are injured, they take on a myriad of additional responsibilities as nurses, rehab specialists, psychotherapists, cheerleaders and advocates. It is through their support and daily efforts that the members of our military have as much as they do, in order to recover.

And yet, this support for recovery comes at a cost. Energy and resources that would otherwise have been spent nurturing the growth and development of family life must be diverted to recovery from injuries and, worse, to fighting a bureaucracy that seems to have little access to common sense, empathy or compassion. Already overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of recovery and adjustment, veterans and their family carepartners can face an unwieldy, inefficient and seemingly uncaring response to even their simplest requests.

This week, however, a wide ranging group of deeply caring Canadians, led by the vision and efforts of people like Allan De Genova, took a giant step toward supporting our wounded veterans and other first responders and their families with the opening of Honour House in New Westminster, BC.

Set on a quiet street not far from the New Westminster Armoury and the beautiful Japanese Gardens where I played as a child, Honour House is a fully accessible residence that will temporarily house up to ten families who must relocate to Greater Vancouver for a loved one's treatment and rehabilitation and who, in the past, would have endured long separations at a time when they needed each other most.

The ability to stay together as a family unit during long months of recovery will make all the difference to the quality of that recovery for the whole family. Hopefully Honour House is just the first of at least ten provincial houses that will support these families who have given so much for us. And, hopefully, the federal government will come to understand the importance of such support and add federal funding to the mix for the houses yet to come.

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