Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Parents lead charge against Sacrifice Medal

Canwest News Service
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The new Sacrifice Medal 'recognizes the valued contribution of those who sacrificed their health or their lives while serving Canada.'

Grieving parents are leading an online protest against a new military medal meant to honour Canada's combat casualties in Afghanistan.

The Sacrifice Medal, announced by the Governor-General's office in August, will be awarded to members of the Canadian military wounded or killed in combat since October 2001.

The medal, which is similar in intent to the Purple Heart awarded to U.S. combat casualties, will only be given to those who died in battle or were wounded seriously enough to require medical treatment. It does not apply to soldiers who died in non-combat incidents, like accidents or "friendly fire."

"It's a slap in the face that Ottawa would come out and say that my son isn't entitled to a medal," said Ben Walsh of Regina. His son, Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh, died on Aug. 9, 2006 after he was apparently shot accidentally by a fellow soldier while on a routine patrol on a bumpy Afghan road.

Walsh and other parents of soldiers who died in non-combat incidents have launched an Internet petition calling on Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to broaden the criteria for awarding the medal. As of Tuesday evening, the petition ran to 1,526 signatures.

They're also getting support from military families who lost loved ones in combat conditions. Sherry Clark's son Pte. Joel Wiebe was killed in June 2007, the day before his 23rd birthday, by a roadside bomb. She said the loss of a son or daughter in war shouldn't be judged by the circumstances of the death.

"It would be very hurtful to hear that your son or daughter's sacrifice wasn't good enough, wasn't deemed worthy enough by the current criteria," she said from her home in Edmonton.

"It's heartbreaking. Joel paid the ultimate sacrifice, as did every other one of those soldiers who was seriously wounded or killed. Their loss is no greater or no less than mine."

© Global News 2008

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