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Seeking a medal for a navy mom

Stoker

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Seeking a medal for a navy mom Published Wednesday June 11th, 2008
OTTAWA - The mother of the Canadian navy officer who died after a fire
on the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004 would like to receive the
Memorial Cross.

Saint John Liberal MP Paul Zed also thinks Deborah Sullivan deserves the
medal awarded since 1919 to the mothers and widows of members of
Canada's armed forces who have died on active duty.

It's the medal generations of Canadians who have not seen war have seen
on the stoic Silver Cross mothers who lay wreaths during Remembrance Day
ceremonies.

But Sullivan isn't eligible.

Her son Lieut. Christopher Saunders, a combat engineer, died on a
mission that seemed routine - the maiden voyage from Scotland to Halifax
of a diesel-electric submarine, one of four Canada had bought from the
United Kingdom.

But Saunders was not in a "special duty area," so his widow and his
mother did not qualify to receive medals honouring his sacrifice.

Sullivan asked Zed for help and on Tuesday, Zed introduced a motion in
the House of Commons to award the medals to all mothers and widows of
soldiers who died on active duty regardless of location since Sept. 3,
1945, the formal end of the Second World War.

"Deborah Sullivan will always be Chris's mom, and she deserves to have
this medal in honour of his brave service to Canada," Zed said in the
House of Commons.

He has written all MPs seeking their support.

"We don't know if we can solve this, but this begins the journey to
solve it," said Zed, who had presented Sullivan in 2004 with the flag
that flew at half-staff from the Peace Tower in honour of her son's
sacrifice.

Sullivan recalled how senior representatives of the military and the
government of Canada all praised her son for his devotion to duty in
public ceremonies and in private letters of condolence after his death.

"It was made to be a very big deal for our country but now they're
telling me he doesn't qualify for the medal," she said.

She does not understand why the rules about the medal should exclude her
and other wives and widows.

"He died in the service of his country while on active duty and I
believe that by choosing certain people who qualify and others who
aren't is discriminatory toward a lot of families," she said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson said the government is always
willing to look at any proposal recognizing the sacrifices of members of
the Armed Forces and their families.

"That's what we had in mind when we brought in the changes we did in
2006 to the Memorial Cross," said Thompson.

The changes in 2006 allowed up to three recipients to be eligible if
they had been previously named by the member of the Armed Forces who
dies, no matter where the death occurred.

Thompson said he wondered why Zed would pick the end of the Second World
War rather than 1919, which is when the medal was struck. He said that's
one among many aspects of Zed's motion that would have to be debated in
the Commons.

Saunders, 32, of Quispamsis, left a wife and two young sons.

Sullivan, who has several relatives who served in the military, said she
assumed after her son's death that she'd eventually be contacted by the
government and awarded the medal.

After a long time with no word from the government Saunders' widow Gwen
began making inquiries, only to learn they weren't eligible.

Sullivan wasn't the only person to expect she'd receive the medal after
her son's high-profile sacrifice.

She recalls being asked to be Silver Cross mother at a Remembrance Day
ceremony in Saint John, but "I was quite embarrassed and upset to have
to inform this lady that I was not a Silver Cross mother."


 

jzaidi1

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Sad indeed,

I knew Chris - not well, mind you but we had mutual friends.  I grew up in Saint John (he was 1 year older than I).  I hope he/his family are awarded a medal.

J
 

geo

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Under the old rules, the lady would not have been entitled to the medal - as his would have gone to his wife...
Now that there are a max of 3.... not a problem...... should the MPs respond kindly to the motion.
 

Michael OLeary

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geo said:
Under the old rules, the lady would not have been entitled to the medal - as his would have gone to his wife...
Now that there are a max of 3.... not a problem...... should the MPs respond kindly to the motion.

Actually, under the old rules, up to two Memorial Crosses were issued.

If the soldier was married, one went to his wife.
If his mother survived him, she received one also.

But, for a single man whose mother had pre-deceased him, none were issued.


Memorial Crosses

The Memorial Cross (more often referred to as the Silver Cross) was first instituted by Order-in-Council 2374, dated December 1, 1919. It was awarded to mothers and widows (next of kin) of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.

The crosses were sent automatically to mothers and wives who qualified, and can be worn by the recipients anytime, even though they were not themselves veterans. The cross is engraved with the name and service number of the son or husband.
 

armyvern

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And, under the new rules, the Memorial Cross can be presented to up to three recipients who are named by the soldier on the Memorial Cross form which is held on his/her file.

In my case, my mom (who I love dearly) isn't listed as one of the three - she'd receive none. That's kind of wierd I guess ... but I have kids - they're on there. I should probably let my mother know that I guess ... just so she isn't waiting as this mother has been should something happen to me on tour.

Situations such as this certainly make you think. I'll be following it with interest.

 

Harley Sailor

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Stoker said:
Thompson said he wondered why Zed would pick the end of the Second World
War rather than 1919, which is when the medal was struck. He said that's
one among many aspects of Zed's motion that would have to be debated in
the Commons.

That would save having to give out metals to all the mothers of people who died in the war would it not.
 

Michael OLeary

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Harley Sailor said:
That would save having to give out metals to all the mothers of people who died in the war would it not.

Memorial Crosses were given to widows and mothers during the Second World War and the Korean War.

http://www.vac.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=feature/week2001/natnews/silvcross
 

TrexLink

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First of all, I would be interested in knowing what a sapper was doing on board one of our subs in the North Atlantic.  A good example of media ignorance (not stupidity or bias, but ignorance of their basic topic).

The Cross was essentially intended to acknowledge the loss of those dying in war.  While I have the greatest sympathy for his survivors, the gentleman died in an accident while on routine voyage. If a Cross is awarded for this, would we then be expected to award a Cross if a stoker breaks his neck falling down a ladder in harbour?

If that, then how about the case of an infantryman shot during a live fire exercise as part of workup training for an operational tour?

If that is allowed, how about a reserve MSE Op who is killed when his LSVW rolls during an normal weekend exercise in Meaford?

If that is allowed, would we expect to award Crosses to the survivors of a staff officer who dies of a heart attack sitting at his desk at 101 Col By?

If that goes, how about a member who wraps his car around a bridge abutment on the way home from work?

If that works, would a Cross be awarded after a member dies after a fight in a strip bar whilst on leave?


OK, it gets progressively sillier, I know - understand I am not trying to trivialize either the loss or the Cross.  My point is that while the grief is very real and the loss most regrettable, at what point do you draw the line? It's a slippery slope.  Should the Memorial Cross be awarded to the survivors of each and every member who dies while in the CF?  That would completely dilute the intent of the Cross.
 

geo

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Texlink.... the Officer was not a Sapper.... he was an combat systems officer (I think) .... definitively a "black suit".  Blame the media for messing up the military occupations.
 

TrexLink

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Geo - Thanks, I do know the difference (and I think you know where I stand WRT to sappers).  I was trying to point out that, in reporting our late comrade as "a combat engineer", the reporter had either not bothered to check out his/her/it's facts or else could not transcribe three words without error.  It makes one question the accuracy of anything else one reads in the media (and elsewhere).  Chimo!
 

big_castor

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TrexLink said:
The Cross was essentially intended to acknowledge the loss of those dying in war.  While I have the greatest sympathy for his survivors, the gentleman died in an accident while on routine voyage. If a Cross is awarded for this, would we then be expected to award a Cross if a stoker breaks his neck falling down a ladder in harbour?

If that, then how about the case of an infantryman shot during a live fire exercise as part of workup training for an operational tour?

Isn't that the intent of the new elligibilty rules ? :

http://www.forces.gc.ca/dhh/honours_awards/chart/engraph/chart_display_e.asp?cat=3&ref=MC&submit1=Go said:
For deaths that occur before 1 January 2007.

The Memorial Cross is granted to the mother (if living) and/or the widow (if legally married or common law) of a CF member that either:
dies in a Special Duty Area (SDA);
dies while proceeding to or returning from a SDA; or
dies from causes directly attributable to service in a SDA.

For deaths that occur after 31 December 2006.

The Memorial Cross is granted to up to three recipients previously identified by the member whose death is the result of an injury or disease related to military service, regardless of location.

The DND press release even cites Lt(N) Saunders death has a reason for the change :

http://www.dnd.ca/site/Newsroom/view_news_e.asp?id=2158 said:
Canadian society, the make-up of the family, and the nature of military service have evolved considerably in the past 90 years. The existing criteria for the Cross—limiting eligibility to deaths in Special Duty Areas (SDAs), and the recipients to the mother and widow only—are no longer in keeping with modern needs. Recent cases such as the deaths of Lieutenant (Navy) Chris Saunders onboard HMCS Chicoutimi (outside of an SDA) and Captain Nichola Goddard, the first Canadian woman to die in combat, illustrate the need to modernize eligibility criteria.
 
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sandyson

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Trexlink has the point.  The solution could be found in allowing "Ministerial discretion" to play a role.  In the background could be the committee--I'm sure there must be one somewhere, making the recommendation.  Of course I must also note that the Forces' CWO could or does play a role.
 

armyvern

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sandyson said:
Trexlink has the point.  The solution could be found in allowing "Ministerial discretion" to play a role.  In the background could be the committee--I'm sure there must be one somewhere, making the recommendation.  Of course I must also note that the Forces' CWO could or does play a role.

I think the new eligibility rules are quite clear:

DHH - Memorial Cross
The Memorial Cross is granted to the mother (if living) and/or the widow (if legally married or common law) of a CF member that either:
dies in a Special Duty Area (SDA);
dies while proceeding to or returning from a SDA; or
dies from causes directly attributable to service in a SDA.

For deaths that occur after 31 December 2006.


The Memorial Cross is granted to up to three recipients previously identified by the member whose death is the result of an injury or disease related to military service, regardless of location.

"Ministerial Discretion" has the possibility to allow for Lt(N) Saunders' mother to be presented with the Memorial Cross as his death pre-dated the 31 Dec 2006 dates where the "SDA" requirement was officially removed from the criterion.

But, how far back would that go? Certainly mothers, wifes, husbands of other Service Members killed while in the performance of their duties outside of SDAs prior to that date would then have to be treated in the very same manner by having those members' deaths treated with the same Ministerial Discretion no? That would be the only proper, fair and just thing to do. Those members meant just as much to their own families, and their service was just as important.

And, if that's the case, you may as well just remove the effective date for non-SDA areas from the list. If all members who've died as "the result of an injury or disease related to military service, regardless of location" are now eligible to have Memorial Crosses presented at the Minister's Discretion ... then we are back to square one and one would have to review the files for each and every person who has died in that line of service outside of SDAs all the way back to the Memorial Cross' original inception date. If you don't do that -- you would be treating those left out, and their own survivors, as "lesser".

 
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sandyson

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Army Vern.  You are correct of course.  However, "discretion" can reach back or forward as far as is considered reasonable by the person exercising the authority.  Discretionary authority is a means for bureaucracy--in the best sense of the word, to evolve or adapt.  In this case the answer may be to grant the medal, but on a broader basis and considering your contribution, the system may suggest an alternative.  E.g. Next-of-kin of a reservist killed on weekend training are not eligible for recognition, yet the reservist volunteered and the loss is no less for the family, than a loss in Afghanistan.  Perhaps an alternative recognition would be suggested.  Regulations must be specific, yet the service must be reasonable. Discretion is a doorway not only to a specific case, but to the encompassing issue.
 

armyvern

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sandyson said:
Army Vern.  You are correct of course.  However, "discretion" can reach back or forward as far as is considered reasonable by the person exercising the authority.  Discretionary authority is a means for bureaucracy--in the best sense of the word, to evolve or adapt.  In this case the answer may be to grant the medal, but on a broader basis and considering your contribution, the system may suggest an alternative.  E.g. Next-of-kin of a reservist killed on weekend training are not eligible for recognition, yet the reservist volunteered and the loss is no less for the family, than a loss in Afghanistan.  Perhaps an alternative recognition would be suggested.  Regulations must be specific, yet the service must be reasonable. Discretion is a doorway not only to a specific case, but to the encompassing issue.

Here's where you and I will have to agree to disagree.

Even a reservist training for a weekend ... is doing so with the intent of that training being "Defence of Canadian Sovereignty".

In this case, to quote you: "discretion can reach back or forward as far as is considered reasonable by the person exercising the authority" ... discretion was exercised by those with authority to do so ... and they have enacted the new regulatory policy with an effective date "after 31 December 2006" for members outside of SDAs because they found that a "reasonable" date for whatever reason. That was the date they chose to reach back to. If they further choose to reach back again ... then the only fair thing to do each treat each as equals. What's good for anyone's mother & loved ones is good for them ALL regardless of component, trade etc -- as they have ALL fallen as volunteers while doing their duty (in whatever capacity) and that performance of duty has resulted in their death while serving this nation. Not one of them is worth more than the other, and not one of them is worth less. To pick and choose a select few from before the enactment date and deem them "different" from all others who died as a direct result of performing those duties outside of SDAs pre 31 Dec 06 -- is a DISCRIMINATORY act; not a discretionary act.
 

armyvern

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sandyson said:
Let me ponder a coherent response.

Heck, it's only my opinion you know!!  :)

I'm no high priced lawyer/politician/debater/policy guru ...

I'm just saying ... what makes sense to me.  :)
 
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sandyson

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I gave your opinion some thought as I was cutting the lawn the other day.  ... Having returned from the hospital, here is the result.
My experience with policy is that the good ones satisfy an intent and apply to most situations. None however, manage to apply to all. Discretion must be resorted to for the remainder. Whether or not the Navy mom gets the silver cross is dependent not only on the policy but equally upon the intent of the policy. I have not read the latter, but would guess that the incentive was to make death more acceptable to the population as a whole.  This guess is consistent with Napoleon's first use of medals and ribbons. Bragging rights! Governments must convert the people's loss to their advantage or considerable opposition to their conflict will result. The silver cross idea was ingenious.  This approach is Machiavellian, but his book The Prince was not evil, just ruthlessly practical.  The Navy mom deserves the cross because her loss can be reasonably recognized and satisfy significant public dissatisfaction—the intent.  Should the loss of reservist “blogins” wherein the circumstances of death are outside the parameters of the current policy, be equally recognized?  Yes--if the squeak is loud enough i.e. if enough people find grievance in the situation. Perhaps the policy date is not fair, but time is physically infinite--not humanly so. Cut off dates will be set, by policy or by circumstance. Here is my example of the latter.  A Vietnam veteran and I were in a weight room when the television monitor showed O Winfrey welcoming 3 brothers and Iraq veterans back home--a moving experience.  The marine and I both commented at how different was the situation when the Vietnam veterans returned. Even the return of dead Canadian servicemen from Cyprus or Yugo was done as quietly as possible. The contrast in recognition today is striking but time prevents compensation.
The conclusion from my experience is therefore:  policy can provide some recognition.  For the the shortcomings I must trust leadership, which I grant you may becoming difficult in these cynical times.
 
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