An Evening with Belt Drive Betty
We all complain about the government, it’s like a national pastime. We constantly gripe about taxes and cut-backs, and are appalled at the latest scandals.
How many people actually get off their arse and actually DO something about it though? How many people write letters to their MHA’s and MP’s (those people work for us, remember!), or put themselves out there to publicly display their opinions, to say to our leaders “what you’re doing is wrong”?
I had the privilege of meeting one of those people last Wednesday evening. Renee Charbonneau, aka Belt Drive Betty, rode her Harley-Davidson solo across the country to raise funds and public awareness of issues affecting our veterans. Renee was greeted in St. John’s by the 2CAV Beaumont Hamel Unit; the Newfoundland chapter of the Canadian Army Veterans motorcycle group. They hosted a “meet & greet” on the Legion parking lot on the Boulevard, and led a ride to Cape Spear to symbolize “Betty” making it to the most easterly point on the continent. On the parking lot of Cape Spear as the sun was setting, Renee gave an impromptu speech that articulately and emotionally described the reasons why she took it upon herself to do this ride. She is an amazing and inspiring woman, and I’m writing this post to echo her sentiments in an effort to spread her message to other people.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I hear the word “veteran”, I think of an elderly man with a chest full of medals earned in Germany or France. The reality is that because of the “war on terrorism”, the veterans of today are my age and younger, coming home with broken bodies and minds.
When these young men and women are discharged for medical reasons, whether the loss of a limb or post-traumatic stress disorder, they are not getting adequate support. These people are forever damaged because they signed up for the Canadian Armed Forces and did what they were told to do. Who wants to hire a person who’s missing a leg? How about someone who can’t get up and go to work in the morning because they spend each night being tortured by nightmares of what they saw and did in Afghanistan? I can’t give you an actual statistic on the suicide rate amongst these veterans, but I can assure you that it is shockingly high. This country is failing these people.
Another issue faced by the military men and women in this country is the fact that they’re being robbed of their pensions. If a veteran has served 10 years or more, they get a buy-out based on 20% of their best 5 years of pay. That’s what they get for putting their lives on the line on the other side of the world, in service of Canada. It doesn’t seem like much, does it?
To be honest, I didn’t know about these issues before meeting Renee. That’s the point of her trip, to make people aware of what’s going on. She wants the public to be appalled, to discuss it with others, to write letters to the people who make the decisions. She makes a very good point with all of this: if we as a country can’t afford to help these people when they come back from war (someone else’s war!), why the HELL are we sending them over there in the first place? Keep our soldiers home to help with floods, forest fires and ice storms. They signed up to serve Canada, let’s have them helping Canada!
I encourage you to visit Belt Drive Betty’s blog to learn more about the issues affecting veterans today in this country, and how you can help. She operates a great website as well, absolutely blocked with all sorts of motorcycle news and information. Check it out at beltdrivebetty.com.
Don’t ever think that one person can’t make a difference!