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"Send Up The Count" [Please read and send out the word]

At this time of year, if you're having a really, really tough time, you're not alone.

You may have heard of people who hurt so much, who thought they had so little to look forward to, that the world would be better off without them.

If you're so down on yourself that there seems to be no other way out, don't do anything until you've finished reading this.

Because you're reading this here, there's a good chance you're in the military, have been in the military or are interested in the military. You may know what we mean by "send up the count". There's a variation of this practice out there that's worth remembering if you or someone you care about is going through a rough time.

"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.

We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group.

This happens in peace, and it happens in war. It also must happen in the sometimes bewildering and frightening transition from war to peace. A vital part of our code is that we don't abandon our fellow soldiers, ever.

We need to remember that our "team" is still together. We will never forget one another; we shared too much. We, each of us, may be weak or broken but the bigger "we," the team, is still strong.

If you know someone who you think feels this bad, or if you haven't heard from colleagues in a while, reading this can give you an easy way to help.

Take it from people who either know people who've harmed themselves or tried, or know family members and friends of those who have.

You cannot know how much of a hole in the lives of others that's left when someone decides they shouldn't be here anymore. It may seem hard, but people want you to be better. To stay around. To be there.

If you need some help, it's easy to feel like you're in the dark, with no hope of help.

If you need some help, you can make sure you're still part of the team.

If you know someone in trouble, you want to see if they're where they're supposed to be, physically as well as emotionally. Help send up the count.

If you know someone who's having trouble, reach out, talk to them and make sure they know there's someone to listen. Help send up the count.

If you're that person needing help, please, please, please don't be afraid to reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're there. Remember your brothers and sisters who covered your back in action are ready to do the same for you today. Help send up the count.

If you haven't spoken to people you've been through terrible times with in a while, reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're all there together. Even if you don't work together in the same place anymore. Help send up the count.

There are a lot of places with people out there to help you if you're going through a rough time, or to help you if you want to help someone going through a rough time. A few of them include:

-- Touch base with any of the Regimental associations you're familiar with from your deployment, just to say hello and be included in their count.
-- There are people out there who've had a tough time, and gotten help from those out there to help - you can click here to send a private message to one willing to help you out.
-- 1-800-883-6094 (Operational Stress Injury Social Support)
-- 1-800-268-7708 (24-Hour Toll-Free Crisis Help Line, Veterans Affairs Canada/Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program)

If nothing else works, call 9-1-1 and explain what you're going through, or what whoever you're worried about is going through. Someone there will help you.

You don't have to suffer alone. You don't have to keep it inside. In fact, it's better to talk about it than keeping it bottled up inside.

Asking for help when you need help isn't weak, it makes sense.

If you need help, or want to help someone who does, send up the count.

Special thanks to Brihard, daftandbarmy and all the others at who came up with and helped put some flesh to this concept.

The Defence Budget

The Defence Budget

It is no secret that Canada is in the throes of a financial crisis.

Governments’ normal reaction is times of crisis is to cut, or at least contain, defence spending to free up money for other more popular projects and programmes.

2009 is not a normal year; The Lady’s Not for Burning or turning and Canadians need to apply the same resolve to their national defence: despite the sorry state of our economy we must not turn back the clock to the 1990s - the defence budget is not for cutting.

2009 is not a normal year because we have Canadian Forces members – our friends and family, the neighbours’ boys, our colleagues’ daughters – at war; they are not just in a combat zone, they are in close contact with the enemy in Afghanistan. We are paying a price – in lives and in shattered minds and bodies – to give effect to the Canadian promoted doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Less important than the lost lives and broken bodies, but costly all the same, is the price of fuel and ammunition and the equipment which are being consumed in combat. After several “decades of darkness” 2009 is not a year to falter. Canadians finally appeared ready, in 2007/2008, to begin the long, painful and expensive process of rebuilding our military muscle so that Canada could, after a 40 year hiatus, ”make a real difference in halting and preventing conflict and improving human welfare around the world,” because, as former Prime Minister Martin said (same source), Canada must practice the kind of “activism that over decades has forged our nation’s international character—and will serve us even better in today’s changing world. The people of our country have long understood that, as a proud citizen of the world, Canada has global responsibilities. We can’t solve every problem, but we will do what we can to protect others, to raise them up, to make them safe.”

2009 is not the year to abandon our global responsibilities. Grave as our economic problems may be they pale in comparison to the economic, military, social and medical problems that bedevil the ”Bottom Billion.” Canadians hope that we can help the “Bottom Billion” without entering another shooting war but events in those countries, which are in a geo-political arc stretching from Afghanistan through to Zimbabwe, suggest that we, Canadians and other rich, sophisticated, militarily capable and mostly Western nations will have to use force to bring help and hope to the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak.

2009 is a year in which Canada’s defence budget needs to grow, in real terms, even as the nation’s top bank economists are advising Finance Minister Flaherty to, later rather than right now, reign in government programme spending.

DND can and will look for ways to stretch every dollar it has – if DND has learned nothing else since the 1960s, it has learned how to pinch pennies; in fact, it has often been accused of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Some defence spending – on DND’s badly neglected infrastructure on bases and stations in Canada or on replacing Canadian made equipment that has been worn out or damaged in combat – can be used to stimulate the economy in 2009. Mindless cuts to defence spending will not help Canadians in 2009 or beyond, only contributing more to our financial woes.

Finance Minister Flaherty will bring down a budget later in this month. The Ruxted Group urges him to increase defence spending, in real terms. A larger defence budget is good policy and it can be made into good politics as well.

Twelve Christmas Wishes

Twelve Christmas Wishes

A couple of weeks ago we began thinking about what we might get some of our favourite people over the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Here’s our list

1.   For our gracious sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her lawful heirs and successors and our Governor General and Commander, Her Excellency The Right Honourable, Michaëlle Jean: long life, health and may your armed forces send you victorious;

2.   For our Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper: a good dose of strategic vision and enough backbone to put it before the Canadian people – see more next week;

3.   For the Minister of National Defence, The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay: enough (moral) courage to take charge of your huge, multi-faceted, complex and shambling department and reorganize it so that the divisions of strategic/political, administrative/management and operational/military command responsibilities are clear to those, yourself included, who have them and to those who receive direction and orders;

4.   For all parliamentarians, of all political parties: the wisdom to take seriously their responsibilities for the security of our nation;

5.   For the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Mr. Robert Fonberg: the ability to use those degrees in economics to convince another economist, Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch that you can administer and manage the Department of National Defence (DND) and, for Mr. Lynch, the insight necessary to know that, despite the administrative and management problem that may persist within DND, the Canadian Forces (CF) need more of everything – money, people, equipment and, above all, support from the political centre;

6.   For the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier: more money to recruit and train new soldiers, after you have taken measures to retain the good ones who are leaving in too great of numbers now;

7.   For the top level military commanders: the understanding of the transformation which is, however haltingly, taking place – not on the orders of Gen. Hillier but, rather, because combat veterans are returning from active service and will not accept the old, eight to five, bureaucratic regime;

8.   For military formation commanders: the resources to provide proper, timely (but not wastefully time consuming) training and support for all our forces – not just those army units involved with Afghanistan;

9.   For ship, unit and squadron commanding officers: enough sailors, soldiers and air force members to do the job without “plug and play” augmentation and enough resources to train your ships and units properly and the will and patience to do that little bit extra that takes a job from done to “well done;”

10.   For the media: the skill and ”heart” to see past the “if it bleeds it leads” maxim and tell Canadians the truth about the wonderful men and women who serve in the CF and the great and often dangerous job they are doing;

11.   For our friends in all services and in all the headquarters, bases, ships, units, squadrons and detachments scattered all around the world, from the highest Arctic to equatorial Africa: our best wishes for a safe return home to your loved ones – and there is an extra-special wish for Ruxted members serving in Kandahar; and

12.   To our fellow Canadians: the knowledge that our “best and brightest” are standing on guard today, and every day, at immediate and real risk of life and limb, for you and the “heart” to wish them well, as we do.