Morale: Canadian Combat Vets Get No Respect


May 18, 2009: Last year, with much fanfare, the Canadian Defense Department announced that it would award a new Combat Action Badge (CAB) for those who experienced combat in Afghanistan. Unlike most nations, Canada never had an award to recognize those who have been in combat. Since World War II, the United States has awarded the Combat Infantry Badge to infantrymen who have. And in the last few years, the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army each created a CAB for their non-infantry troops who had been under fire. Canadian troops were well aware of the American awards, and were looking forward to their own CAB. But near the end of 2008, the Defense staff changed their minds, believing it would be too much trouble (and potential bad publicity) to determine who had been in combat (sufficiently to deserve the award), and who had not. Some politicians were also uneasy about recognizing "warriors." The Combat Action Badge was cancelled, but nothing was said, and the Defense staff hoped no one would notice.

Several thousand Canadian troops, who had seen combat in Afghanistan, were looking forward to the CAB, and were stonewalled by the Defense Department when inquiries were made about the missing CAB. The chatter on the Internet was eventually picked up by Canadian media, who investigated, and planned to publish stories about the matter. Aware of this, the Defense Department quickly sent out an email, on May 15th, that reached new heights in saying not much. Basically, the Defense Department said the CAB wasn't going to happen, and that the government was working on new ways to honor the efforts of Canadian military personnel.

The Canadian Forces brass said the decision had been made in consultation with military personnel. This did not go down well with the Canadian troops who had been in combat. If there's enough public outcry over this, the CAB may be revived and issued. Otherwise, the CAB stays dead.

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