Injured Afghan vet testifies about struggle for benefits, despite warning
Published Wednesday, June 5, 2013 10:02PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 5, 2013 10:04PM EDT
A fourth-generation solider who served in Afghanistan said he felt compelled to disobey orders and speak out about his experience as an injured veteran, regardless of the consequences he may face.
Vancouver-native Cpl. Glen Kirkland barely survived a Taliban ambush in the Zhari district of Afghanistan five years ago, and said he fears he’ll have no pension when he’s discharged, or be given adequate assistance for covering his medical bills for a long list of injuries.
The 29-year-old recalled the terrifying attack during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.
“My tour was one of bloodshed, constant fighting and on the second last day of my tour, my platoon was ambushed by an estimated 120 Taliban fighters,” an emotional Kirkland recalled.
He said the rocket that hit his vehicle missed him by “inches.”
Three of the five soldiers in the vehicle died in the attack.
“I had to pull myself while on fire, and through gunfire, to try to extract my dead and dying brothers-in-arms.”
The attack, Kirkland said, resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of his hearing, the loss of some sight and a brain injury that left him forever dependant on insulin.
“I suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) so badly that I haven’t been able to visit my home in Vancouver for years,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “I can’t handle the anxiety of being around crowds. Survivor’s guilt haunts me every day.”
Kirkland recalled the phone call he made to his father while in the hospital in Afghanistan.
“My dad said, ‘Don’t worry, Canada will take care of you,’” he said. “My dad was wrong.”
Kirkland said he had aspirations of becoming a police officer, but his injuries have dashed that dream.
He said he’s been denied certain medical aids upon returning to Canada.
“I cried,” he said. “Not like a person in pain, but as a person who is totally and utterly defeated.”
Kirkland said he’s been told to remain quiet about his experience after returning from battle.
“In the past I’ve been threatened with a dishonourable discharge,” Kirkland told CTV News.
However, he said it’s important to expose the hurdles some veterans face.
Committee members who heard Kirkland’s testimony agreed.
“He has serious, serious injuries,” said MP John McKay. “They can boot him tomorrow, and he has no idea whether his medication will be covered, he has no idea whether he’ll get any pension, and he’s out on his own. It’s shameful.”
MP Chris Alexander said: “This is clearly a soldier who feels very strongly he has not been well-served by the system…and we want to improve the system. So if we don’t hear from those who have experienced challenges, we’re not doing our job.”
With a report from CTV's Richard Madan