He­roes too soon for­got­ten

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPINION - CHRIS NEL­SON

Not con­tent with send­ing 60,000 Cana­di­ans to die in the trenches of France and Flan­ders, the politi­cians and mil­i­tary High Com­mand just couldn’t re­sist. Yep, it seemed just the right time to in­vade Rus­sia.

As the First World War was com­ing to a cli­max with the Cana­dian Corps lead­ing the charge against the re­treat­ing Ger­mans the pow­ers-that-be in Ot­tawa de­cided to send 4,192 con­scripts off to join the Brits in the fight against the dreaded Bol­she­viks, who were get­ting the up­per hand in Rus­sia’s Civil War.

In the end, they didn’t see much ac­tion af­ter land­ing in Vladi­vos­tok in the spring of 1919 and they cer­tainly didn’t stop those nasty Com­mies from even­tu­ally win­ning the day. But they did man­age to in­ad­ver­tently cause the deaths of thou­sands of Cana­di­ans across the length and breadth of this land.

The Span­ish flu was rag­ing in parts of the con­ti­nent, so when the mil­i­tary loaded those Siberia-bound troops in eastern Canada onto cramped rail­cars the in­evitable hap­pened. Many be­came sick from the flu.

That’s where true mil­i­tary ge­nius emerged. At ev­ery stop along the west­ward-bound CP rail line they’d drop off those who’d be­come ill. Thus they man­aged to seed the flu into ev­ery large town be­tween Hal­i­fax and Van­cou­ver.

With Re­mem­brance Day upon us, it’s a timely re­minder of the cal­lous­ness of po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers when it comes to men un­der their com­mand and the civil­ian hoi pol­loi.

Con­sider the lat­est guff em­a­nat­ing from Ot­tawa. De­spite mak­ing a big deal about com­pen­sat­ing vets prop­erly dur­ing the last fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign, the Grits have fol­lowed the same path of say­ing one thing in pub­lic but mak­ing sure their bu­reau­cracy did en­tirely an­other.

Ev­ery year mil­lions of dol­lars are bud­geted but not spent by Veter­ans Af­fairs, so it hardly comes as a sur­prise that Ot­tawa ad­mit­ted this week they ac­ci­den­tally short­changed vets $165 mil­lion over the last seven years be­cause of a wonky cal­cu­la­tion.

Con­trast that with for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral Adri­enne Clark­son, who has re­ceived $1.6 mil­lion in pen­sion pay­ments since leav­ing the post in 2005. On top of that, she’s claimed more than a mil­lion bucks in ex­penses since she ex­ited the job, along with a nice $3-mil­lion grant to help her on her way as a legacy pay­ment.

In her de­fence last week Clark­son pledged her­self to the Cana­dian peo­ple as long as she lives. There were lots of Cana­dian ser­vice­men who did that too, many of whom saw that vow ac­tu­ally run its course far too quickly.

What­ever his im­pe­ri­al­ist sins, Rud­yard Ki­pling un­der­stood the or­di­nary soldier. His com­mon voice verse about the myth­i­cal Tommy Atkins will still res­onate in those who put their lives on the line for Canada.

“For it’s Tommy this an’ Tommy that, an ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’

But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is coun­try’ when the guns be­gin to shoot.”

Please. Let’s re­mem­ber that too, come Sun­day.

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