Band of Brothers

This story in Britain Daily Mail, from last week, caught my eye; it may even bring a tear to yours.

The background is that, in Afghanistan, in 2009, “Andy Reid … [now] … 42, from St Helens, Merseyside, was an Army corporal when he lost an arm and both legs after stepping on a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan, in October 2009 … [and] … Alex Kemp, then 18 and a member of Mr Reid’s section in the Yorkshire Regiment’s Third Battalion, rushed to his aid with tourniquets and dressings to stem catastrophic bleeding.” (Now, for those not familiar with small unit organizations, the “section” is the first, and in some respect, therefore, the most important, level of command. A section is, about, 10 men and is, in the British Army, as it was in the Canadian Army until Mr Hellyer’s ‘reforms’ in about 1966) commanded by a corporal, who is the first, most junior, but, again, arguably the most important leader in the Army.)

The story goes on to say that “After being medically discharged, Mr Reid went on to JS58775173become an ex-forces ambassador for recruitment company, Morson International, to help raise mental health awareness and help veterans transition into civilian jobs … [and] … He also went on to become an ambassador for Step Forward Homes, set up by former child actor Chris Perry-Metcalf, 30, and his father, Gary, 55, three years ago and made up of ex-military servicemen. It helps find homes for veterans.

Things did not go as well for Alex Kemp: “Mr Kemp was homeless as a result of crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and had even attempted to take his own life … [and] … Mr Kemp, now 28, said: ‘I came out of the Army in late 2010 after being admitted to the Army hospital due to my mental health … [he said that] …. ‘I wanted to be a dad and not a dead hero, I choose to come out so I could be with my child’ … [but] … Mr Kemp said his mental state left him ‘dripping with sweat’ whenever he went out and he ‘didn’t want to speak to people or work’ … [and] … He recalled: ‘We had lost a few men in our section and it had been hard to cope with the things I had seen, I lost my grandmother and lost my home, had no job and was struggling to see my daughter … [and, he explained, in an all to familiar story, that] … ‘I would get a job and get back on my feet for it to fall apart again and it was just a cycle. I even made an attempt to take my own life and was admitted to hospital.’ 

Mr Kemp used social media as one tool to reach out for help … Mr Reid, still the good section commander listened and came to his aid.

8889054-6623543-image-a-215_1548253911170First: “Mr Reid paid for young father Mr Kemp, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, to catch a train to Manchester and collected him from the station … [when] … ‘He arrived with two carrier bags of belongings … [then, as good soldiers do, he said that] … From there we got a plan in place to help him get back on his feet and become self-sufficient.’

Then: “Through Step Forward Homes, Mr Reid was also able to find Mr Kemp a home, which he moved into last August … [and] … He has also now passed his driving test, bought a car and started a new job in railway maintenance … [and, even better] … Mr Kemp is also now able to see his daughter, Millie, 10, and makes weekly visits to a counsellor to help cope with his PTSD … [and, he (Alex Kemp) said] … ‘Everyone has really looked after me. I have everyone’s numbers so that whenever I need them, I’m never alone.’

= = = = = = =

It is tempting to leave the story right there, as a ‘good news’ item and as a good example of how that whole “band of brothers” things really works, but …

There’s an article by Christie Blatchford in the National Post, that says “Born in the the-new-chief-3Normansame year, to military families, Jon Vance and Mark Norman followed separate career tracks as rising stars, Vance in the army, Norman in the navy, until they ended up, respectively, as the Nos. 1 and 2 in the Canadian Forces. They would have worked together intimately, and likely found themselves, long suffering spouses in tow, at dozens of the military/government social functions that are an inevitable part of life for ambitious officers. Perhaps they were even friends … [but, she says] … on Jan. 9, 2017, Vance gave his second-in-command what’s called “a notice of intent,” alerting Norman that he might be relieving him of military duty. An RCMP investigation into Norman’s conduct was underway. Vance had just been briefed on it by deputy police commissioner Gilles Michaud. Vance then went to brief Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary, the PM’s chief of staff Katie Telford and others. That meeting started, Vance estimates, around 4 p.m. Then Vance got a phone call from the PM himself, who confirmed he’d been told. Then Vance gave Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and his own chief of staff the news. He took not a single note of any of these discussions. And then he went out for dinner with Butts and Telford.

“The public record,” Ms Blatchford says, “is silent on whether Vance defended or advocated for his former Vice-Chief, but it certainly appears to the outsider that after a long and noble career, Norman was thrown under the proverbial bus. He is the only person to have been criminally charged for leaking information, though others have been identified as having done so, and in fact, it’s the norm in Ottawa. And the courtroom is entirely absent of his fellow “flag officers” (senior officers) and generals, and there are more of them in the Canadian Forces than you can shake a stick at. So while ordinary Canadians and retired military friends may support Norman, his own are missing in action.

I’m not commenting, not this week, anyway, on the substance of what’s happening in court; I think Vice Admiral Norman has excellent legal representation and I think that almost all Canadian judges, Madame Justice Heather Perkins-McVey included, are independent of political bias and most bend over backwards to be scrupulously fair to defendants. I am also not commenting on the fact that Christie Blatchford hasn’t seen any serving admirals or generals in the courtroom, except to note that these things happen in the daytime and every admiral and general I ever knew had a pretty full calendar, all day, every day, and there simply isn’t time to go to sit in a courtroom just to provide some moral support to an old chum is in a spot of bother.

I’m just saddened by the appearance of what’s going on … it doesn’t seem very brotherly, does it?



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