Veteran thoughts - 2017

Veterans groups are an interesting discussion point.  I touched on the topic over a year ago.  I was going to make this blog post a large one that also discussed charity organizations, and how my life as a volunteer has shed much light on the various perspectives.  I would wax poetic on where I think some have lost their way, and highlight strategic problems that they may soon face.
But, I started to realize that breaking this into 2 posts, and allowing for people to notice the similarities in the charity groups and Veterans organizations  on their own.

This blog post is an opinion piece, and as such is my thoughts on ideas and concepts.  It will not agree with everyone – I guarantee it.  But, disagreements are fine and healthy debate will help everyone learn.

It has been just over a year since the post I mentioned above, talking about the axe grinding cranky-pants groups, election promises and such, so it lends itself to a timely update.  I wonder if I will make this an annual tradition..

In the past blog post, I mentioned the Equitas society and their lawsuit – interesting how recently that decision was handed down (unfavourably), and the rumour mill in Ottawa that is talking about the pending announcement about pensions is quite active in the news.

Here is an observation that many non-military people need to understand:

In your job, can your employer change, at their whim, the benefits you were entitled to when you were hired?  Can they take away a severance package, or adjust your pension benefits?  If you knew that they could up and change anything after you signed on the dotted line – would you still sign?

The Canadian Armed Forces is not unionized, and all benefits, perks, and conditions, are subject to the whims of the current political party in power.  This is a part of the argument that the Equitas society is battling.  The government wields such power over those in uniform, and should have a duty to act in good faith for those that have put themselves in harm’s way on their behalf, not to the best action of a balance sheet.

But moving on…..
As mentioned in the Nov 2016 blog post, I have been shopping around to find the group that might be able to help me as I prepare myself for what will most likely be a battle for my own Veteran benefits.  The most common ground for finding these groups is social media – and the groups are plentiful.

Considering the axiom of  “United we stand – Divided we fall”, which is a statement that has been around for generations, and is a fairly true observation about the current activity among Veterans groups.  Why do we have so many disconnected axe grinding cranky-pants groups?

Here is more about what I have discovered.

Many people have a lot of passion, opinions, and willingness to share their opinion quite vehemently.
The people who I refer to as “axe grinding cranky-pants”, are actually trying to put action to their words.
The majority of the people are just keyboard warriors.

Yes, I recognize the irony of me writing about keyboard warriors in a blog post.

But those that know me personally, know that I do also walk the walk, and don’t just type the talk.
So, maybe I need to cut the axe grinding cranky-pants a little slack?  More about this thought a little later.

Now, I want to talk about a group that will probably rile many people – the Royal Canadian Legion.

Here is MY OPINION on where I think many people have gone wrong in their perception of the Legion, what the Legion was formed as, and what it should be doing.

The Legion started as an organization of Veterans that conducted community service.  I heard that wording last year in Jasper – at the Legion – and it resonates the most with me.
The Legion started allowing more and more non-military members as Veteran numbers dwindled.  Bases closed and the military got smaller in size (remember – we were in the top 5 worldwide after the Second World War), and the number of veterans in the smaller communities couldn’t support the concept over the long-term.
So, the Legion (Veterans) had adapted in order for the organization to survive.

When did the Legion become the “voice” for Veterans issues?
When the Legion was formed, it was the largest single grouping of Veterans outside the currently serving members.  Even today at only 20% Veteran membership, and a tad over 50,000 past or present serving members – the Legion is still the LARGEST grouping of Veterans in Canada, which acts like a proper organization(mostly kinda anyway).

Does that entitle it to be the organization with a voice?

Who should have the voice?  Could the other Veterans groups agree?

With all the other groups that claim to “speak on behalf of Veterans”, who can I put my support behind?
Here is what happens when you ask direct, pointed, questions.  How am I expected to support something that I am denied from?

click to enlarge

I mentioned the keyboard warriors before – wanting to rant, rave, and protest.  I have mentioned the Equitas society and the lawsuit.

Which action speaks loudest and carries the most weight?
As I feel that I understand strategic planning, and forward thinking – you probably already understand my answer.

Back to the thought about cutting the axe grinding cranky-pants some slack.
Probably not going to happen.
Overall, I think that they do more damage than good – with most people foaming at the mouth and screaming – it allows a sitting government to ignore the groups as a whole because it becomes counter-productive.  Hard to talk rationally to someone just yelling in your face.  Remember the “divided we fall” comment?

The recent federal By-elections demonstrate a reality that can’t be ignored – Only 21% voter turnout.
The apathy of people to do nothing is staggering.  I have a partially drafted blog post with my opinions on the downfall of society in the works too… not sure when that will see the light of day.

The sad part is – the Veteran community appears to match that.
I belong to a Facebook group that wants to change the Legion – anyone who suggests that Veterans and serving members join and be active in their local Legion to make a difference is quickly berated and yelled at by a myriad of keyboard warriors.  It does provide much comedy though – I have a Facebook friend that has a couple times pointed out – Stolen Valour is a crime for those that pretend to be Veterans, and is a crime.  What about a group that pretends to be a Veterans organization?  I really love this question, mostly from the way it is worded, but the fact that I don’t know if it can really be answered in a clear concise fashion.

I have been a Legion member over the years, and other groups such as ANAF, all across the country.  My membership has lapsed in the recent years, as I am currently not conveniently located close to a Legion.  I am contemplating changing that.

Back to the point though – What defines a Veterans organization?
Is there a definition somewhere that can used as a standard to hold organizations to? why not is probably the more important question.
I know that many people will have an opinion on this, but there doesn’t seem to be a formal officially recognized criteria to assess groups against – maybe VAC needs to start there.  Establish the criteria for groups to be recognized, then maybe more will structure accordingly and then productive, meaningful discussions become possible.

As I have mentioned, at only 20% Veterans – the Legion is still the largest organized grouping of Veterans in Canada.  Let the reality of that sink in – they are the largest organized group.  There might be larger groups (Facebook groups etc), but not with an organizational structure.   There just isn’t enough Veteran members in the Legion to actually make a difference in the stance or position of the current (predominantly non-Veteran) leadership.
But, that is most likely how the Legion gets to be the voice.

Ok, now you are wondering when I am going to wrap all this up in a bow, so that it makes sense.

My view on the world is that the majority of Veterans are just like the rest of society and are frustrated about the problem.  Those individuals and groups that want to take action, mostly take knee jerk reactions that are counter-productive, and independent of each other.   Very few seem to have a plan and a strategy to help actually make effective changes. (Equitas Lawsuit got the government’s attention)  This further drives the frustrated Veterans that don’t know what to do, or how to help, further into the shadows of not doing anything.

I actually believe that some of the axe grinding cranky-pants started with more supporters than they appear to have now, and had a bit of a strategy based on the online support that was received.  Then when reality of the boots hit the ground, the support they expected to have, didn’t materialize.  They adapted to the rant, rave, and yell into any nearby cameras.  Just my opinion, having watched people try to plan an initiative within a group, to have it fail in execution.
My solution to fix the Legion – is just like my political views – people need to go out and vote.  If we have enough of an action that the Legion Veteran population exploded – and you had enough Veterans to win some votes – you can make a difference.  But it can’t happen overnight, and can’t happen without action.

But you have to start somewhere.

But, to put it into warrior terms – “selection and maintenance of the aim” is a principle of warfare.  Written by a Leaders like Sun Tzu, paraphrased by theorists like Clausewitz, but actually applied by few.  Simply put, choose the desired results, action the plan – and maintain focus on the end goal.  All changes to the plan are assessed against the desired goal.

Developing a plan and strategy that would get the people out of the shadows is a big part of the solution.  I don’t have the answer to that – but I can hope that maybe this can start some conversations.

Spending as much time reading blogs, articles, and opinions, from many of the Veterans groups as I have, I felt I needed to add my own.  They are all saying and wanting the same thing, just not saying it together, or in a fashion that makes people want to listen.
I am one of the frustrated people, trying to figure out the best way to help – and not sure which battlefield to try to join.  I just won’t sit back and do nothing – I will help out somehow.

Thanks for tagging along on this journey of my thought stream.  If you have a comment, or if I helped you realize something, please share your thoughts, through comments or social media.
I don’t claim to know everything, but these are my observations.