Afghan vets need recognition too

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It was nice to get out of the classroom and be working in the field on Wednesday for Remembrance Day.

It’s one of my favourite events to cover every year, so I’m glad my classmates and I were sent out on assignment.

Many veterans, in my experience, want to have their stories told.

Below is part of one.

Aging Selkirk veterans received a roar of applause as they left a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Selkirk Rec. Complex last Wednesday.

But retired Cpl. Tyler Liebenau, an Afghan war vet, wonders why the same commemoration isn’t given to veterans who fought in Canada’s 12-year war in Afghanistan – a battle he left only two years ago.

Liebenau, 29, said much of Canada’s role in Afghanistan remains a mystery to the public.

He said while the public may know about soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, many who’ve returned home have had their stories go unheard.

“They don’t know what soldiers have seen, what soldiers have done, what the soldiers have smelt, and how they’ve eaten and how they’ve lived.”

“Nobody cares about us anymore because nobody’s dying in Afghanistan anymore.”

Liebenau, who is now a father, said he lived under constant fear of dying when he was overseas.

“There were times where I held my breath over every single culvert, every single pothole in Afghanistan, because I had no idea if it was the last second of my life,” he said.

“You feared everybody. You feared man, woman, and child every day every second.”

Liebenau lost two of his fellow comrades to the war in Afghanistan.

A roadside bomb killed Pte. Garrett Chidley, 21, and Liebenau’s best friend Master Cpl. William Elliot died from suicide after returning home.

“He suffered from PTSD for whoever knows how long,” Liebenau said.

Elliot is one of at least 54 Canadian soldiers that have taken their own lives since returning home, an investigation by the Globe and Mail revealed last week.

Liebenau said the federal government has left Afghan vets suffering and without the proper resources they need.

“I know of one guy (and) every year he has to prove that he lost his leg.”

“These are the guys who laid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and right now they’re getting the shaft.”

Liebenau said the Forces did little to support him when he was at his breaking point after his cousin died in a motorcycle crash in 2013.

“They said ‘you want to go home? It’s on your own dime, and you’re not coming back.’”

“I had no support from my military, my chain of command whatsoever.”

Liebenau wants Afghan vets to start getting the same public commemoration Second World War vets receive.

Selkirk Legion president Lorne Thorvaldson said he hopes legions like his can start to attract younger veterans, but stressed the importance of honouring older vets.

“It’s important now to show our support for them, because they are aging. Soon we won’t have them.”

 

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