By Jill Kruse
If you ask Canadian musician Julian Austin why he wants to help Canada's military personnel and their families, be prepared, he has a long list of reasons but some lie closer to his heart.
"I guess it stems back to my father, a Second World War Veteran by the name of Harvey McPhee," says Julian. "He was a combat medic on a transport ship that got torpedoed. Maybe that's where the TB came from--being in the diesel and oil infested water for so long before being rescued."
He recalls the struggles his family had after his father had to retire early and when he worked as an orderly at the DVA Hospital in Saint John, New Brunswick.
"Of course his pension was small and times were lean after that. I look back later in my life thinking how was it that a man as great and incredible as my dad had to worry about where his next dollar might come from, or where next week's groceries were coming from to feed his family. A man that who selflessly gave of himself for King and country and asked nothing in return should not ever have to worry about anything after what he and thousands of others went through. They all should've been set for life."
"I have always been a proud Canadian but throughout my younger years getting in trouble with the law, I lost my way for awhile, letting my patriotism slip a bit and taking this country for granted like so many of us did. I guess it was places like Bosnia, Southwest Asia and Afghanistan where I had gone to perform for the troops, that it really, truly brought back my never again unwavering patriotism and the true meaning of what it means to be a Canadian and to live in a country as great and wonderful as Canada."
Julian says it made him much more aware of those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for our way of life here. And when he and his wife Angela visited France two years ago he was touched by every monument and battlefield where Canadians, Americans, British, French, Australians, Irish and others, fought and died.
"I could not hold back my tears for those selfless wonderful souls who gave all to save the blessed free world. We truly owe our Veterans and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of world peace and freedom. We truly do. This is just one of a million reasons why I am motivated and want to help our Veterans in any way I can, for I am a grateful and thankful Canadian."
This past year Julian received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions on behalf of the Canadian Veteran's Advocacy, a group which advocates for Canadian Veterans. More recently he was notified that he will be receiving the Governor General's 'Caring Canadian Award'. He says this latest accolade has inspired him to do something more for Canadian Veterans who are struggling for the benefits and compensation he says they so rightly deserve.
This past week he created a Facebook page dedicated to this cause called 'Canada Cares'. Through Canada Cares he hopes to raise funds and awareness to help Vets get what they deserve.
"At this moment "Canada Cares" is just a Facebook page," says Julian. "It's a name and an idea I have had kicking around inside my head for a few years now and I want to see it turn into a legitimate organization that assists those of our many Veterans who are truly in need of help on many different levels. As a grateful nation we need to especially address the growing issue of homeless Veterans living on the street as this is so wrong. We the grateful citizens of Canada need to be the voice that's so desperately needed to represent our Veterans on all levels when taking on Parliament. We need to start our own "Citizens Army" to defend the rights and entitlements for those who once stood on watch to defend and protect us no matter the threat. I hope and pray Canada Cares will be able to help and to help other organizations that are already in place for Veterans."
Julian says he would like to organize a cross country "Canada Cares Christmas" with many of my his friends in the music industry to raise money to care for our homeless Veterans particularly.
"I also want to challenge "ALL" grateful and thankful Canadians to donate a minimum of $1 or whatever amount they want to donate to a couple of reputable charities here in Canada that already exist to assist with our Veteran's needs. When I was over in Bosnia and Afghanistan we would go to "Canada House" to have coffee and sit and talk with the troops. You knew that that was a little piece of Canada--even in a hostile war torn countries like these--you knew that was a piece of home away from home.
"We need to bring this familiarity to our Veterans living on the streets here in Canada, and we need to fight to get the government behind us and put in place the much needed funding to help our homeless heroes. There at "Canada House" they can once again find their self worth of being a human being with a purpose. There perhaps we can help them find employment and their own place to call home and help them return to society as respected members of society instead of forgotten about members of society."
Julian recalls the case of Veteran Fabien Melanson from New Brunswick, who went on a hunger strike to fight Veteran Affairs for his home. Fabien ended up losing his home his dogs and his "self-esteem" because of a mix up on paper which he says probably had to do with understaffed, overworked and under-funded programs at Veteran Affairs.
"The government needs to give the needed funding to organizations such as Veteran Affairs so that those who work there can look after all of our Veterans needs without issue."
He hopes that his organization Canada Cares will make the right kind of noise to motivate the government in power to do what is right for those who volunteered to defend this country.
"It will take a little bit of time to get everybody on board but we will do this. We have to find successful companies and sponsors with deep pockets from all across Canada who are also grateful and thankful Canadians to help us rent buses from all parts of Canada and make our way to the front lawn of the Parliament buildings to stand with our Veterans with a very loud message to the government.
"Our government gives more to people who land here in Canada everyday in the form of money, jobs and housing who are not yet Canadian citizens. But then they seem to ignore and turn their backs on the Canadians who have served Canada fearlessly and without question. I have to ask, why? As a grateful nation we have to come together, both civilians and military alike, from every part of Canada and show our government that there are still too many of us LOUD and PROUD CANADIANS left, to just stand by and watch nothing being done for our heroes here at home. God bless our heroes everywhere."
For more information about Canada Cares visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canada-Cares/504861949551534?fref=ts
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.