Gulf War Vets Finally Get Their Thanks

by Jennifer Campbell -THE OTTAWA CITIZEN-March 1, 2005. (A.5)

Veterans Affairs gave pensions, but never any recognition

The government of Kuwait gave its thanks yesterday to Canadians who helped liberate the country during the Gulf War, marking the 14th anniversary of the end of the war. According to the veterans, the ceremony also marked the first time they were recognized, on their own, for their contributions.

The event came about after Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Rashed Al Haroon arrived in Canada in January and met with veterans. He asked them what Canada usually does to commemorate their efforts on the anniversary of the war’s end.

“We said, ‘Um, nothing sir’,” explained Louise Richard, a retired navy lieutenant. “He was very shocked and very disappointed because they are so grateful to us.”

The ambassador then decided to hold the first official ceremony for Gulf War veterans in Canada — and he invited Veterans Affairs Minister Albina Guarnieri.

“It’s been 14 years — it’s not as though we haven’t given them time,” said Sean Bruyea, a retired intelligence officer. “Now that it’s happening, the (Veterans Affairs) minister’s in like a dirty shirt.”

Asked why Canada hasn’t commemorated the Gulf War soldiers, Ms. Guarnieri said Gulf War veterans receive disability pensions and are therefore acknowledged by Veterans Affairs.

“There’s no denying that commemorating the service of veterans is an imperative,” she said, adding that she wasn’t aware this was the first exclusive event for Gulf War veterans.

The veterans have other complaints, too. They don’t get announced at Remembrance Day ceremonies when they lay a wreath, nor are they mentioned on the Cenotaph, Mr. Bruyea said. They’ve so far been denied medals given by the government of Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government sent the Liberation of Kuwait medals to Canada, but the federal government has refused to turn them over to veterans. The veterans claim Canada is the only country of the 38-member coalition to deny the medals to its vets. Yesterday’s representatives were wearing two medals — one from Canada and one from Saudi Arabia for service in the same war.

“I would think the Kuwaitis would be wondering why Canada accepted the medal from Saudi Arabia, but not Kuwait,” Ms. Richards said.

The ceremony included two minutes of silence as well as a wreath- laying. Speaking to the group of dignitaries, Mr. Al Haroon thanked the veterans.

“On behalf of my government, I thank you for coming today, for giving us the opportunity to say to disabled veterans, thank you for your services, thank you for your sacrifices,” he said.