Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Friday, October 11, 2013

New announcement: War veteran died before getting the medal he desperately coveted

War veteran died before getting the medal he desperately coveted

ByMark McNeil

When his country called in the Second World War, Ed Wood answered in spades.

He flew 16 harrowing missions in big Lancasters as part of Bomber Command before being shot down over Stuttgart, Germany in July 1944 and parachuting to safety from 20,000 feet.

But 70 years later when the veteran called on his country, no one responded.

And Wednesday, Wood died at St. Peter's Hospital without the special service medal bar he so desperately wanted to recognize the dangerous sacrifice he made as a young man.

"I'm 90 years old and I still didn't get it," were the last words he said, his daughter Deb Wood recalled.

In the summer of 2012, the Conservative federal government announced it was finally going to recognize Canadian airmen who flew with Bomber Command.

A special bar was created to be worn on the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

At the end of the war, special medals were awarded for other campaigns, such as Dieppe and Hong Kong, but not to flyers who flew dangerous Bomber Command missions.

More than 10,000 Canadian airmen were killed while serving in the controversial Bomber Command campaign that is estimated to have killed as many as 600,000 Germans, many of whom were civilians.

The special medal issue was something air force veterans vehemently complained about for decades before the announcement by then Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney last summer that "With the production of this bar, our government is honouring those Canadians who fought for peace, freedom and democracy through their service in Bomber Command operations over Europe."

But the medals — in some cases at least — have been slow to be issued. That's a big concern because veterans of the campaign still living are into their 90s. A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino could not explain the delay and issued the statement:

"Second World War Veteran Ed Wood served his country with honour and distinction, alongside thousands of Canadians in Bomber Command. Nearly 1,000 bars have been issued, and Veterans Affairs will continue to issue them as quickly as possible."

Deb Wood said she applied twice, once before the program formally started. She stepped up her campaign through the summer of 2013, knowing her dad was becoming more frail. She said Veterans Affairs promised it would be delivered in July.

But no medal arrived.

Last week, knowing her father was reaching the end, she contacted NDP Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton to lobby on the family's behalf, but to no avail. Charlton said the department should have "moved heaven and earth" for someone who fought so hard for his country.

Deb Wood said, "When I called I was given different numbers and different people and all would say is that it is in the mail," "I was told the elderly would be the first to get them." Families of veterans are also eligible to apply.

Wood believes the medals were being held back so they could be handed out at high impact ceremonies such as Remembrance Day. She says other Bomber Command vets she knows haven't received their medals either.

But she did see on television a ceremony in Toronto in August where several vets were presented with the bars.

Wood, who worked as an accountant in his civilian life, was very active with the Canadian Warplane Heritage.

Over the last several months, he was obsessed about receiving the medal before he died. She says his doctor told her the faint hope of receiving the medal probably extended his life by several days, maybe weeks.

"I believe that is what he was hanging on for. It's all he kept asking for."

Wood's funeral will be held at Bayview Gardens Funeral Home on Rymal Road on Saturday.

905-526-4687 | @Markatthespec

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