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Cash for veterans education

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr with (left) CFB Borden Hon. Col. Jamie Massie and Georgian College CEO and president MaryLynn West-Moynes at the funding announcement for Canadian Armed Forces members who wish to attend post-secondary school after leaving the military. PHOTO: CHERYL BROWNE/BARRIE EXAMINER

Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr with (left) CFB Borden Hon. Col. Jamie Massie and Georgian College CEO and president MaryLynn West-Moynes at the funding announcement for Canadian Armed Forces members who wish to attend post-secondary school after leaving the military. PHOTO: CHERYL BROWNE/BARRIE EXAMINER

Once soldiers, sailors and aviators pack up their kit bags, they can pick up a knapsack and hit the books.

The Canadian Armed Forces recognizes military service is no longer a life-long career solution.

So after six years in the armed forces, soldiers can now apply for $40,000 in education funding and after 12 years of military service, they will have $80,000 at their disposal for tuition at a college, university or a technical institution.

“We ask the men and women of this country to do the heavy lifting for us on the front lines when they join the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr at Georgian College, Tuesday.

“And we are committed to ensuring they receive the support they need afterwards. That is why our government has introduced new measures in Budget 2017 to support members of the Canadian Armed Forces as they transition to their post-military lives.

“During their service in the Canadian Armed Forces, members of the military receive first-class training and experience, and those skills are not lost when they are released from the military.”

More than two dozen people gathered in a meeting area on the second floor of the Sadlon Centre for Health and Wellness Building to hear the minister’s funding announcement for veterans’ post-military careers.

After 36 years of service in military, Bob Munroe retired in 2016.

Graduating from Georgian’s two-year digital photography program next week, Munroe said after his medical release, the military paid for his tuition, mileage and books for the first six months of school.

“It helps, every little bit they’re giving veterans is a positive thing,” Munroe said.

However, he added, he had to wait more than four months before his pension kicked in and the waiting was the toughest part.

“With a person with a medical release, you’re supposed to go to the top of the pile. If I’m at the top of the pile, God help the other people that are getting out without an injury,” he said.

Yet Hehr said the Liberal government’s initial investment in its 2016 budget, along with this new announcement, equals more than $6.2 billion earmarked for military personnel and their families.

Hehr, who also wears the mantel of associate minister of the Department of National Defence, said the feds have opened up nine of the resource centres closed by the previous Conservative government, for a total of 32 centres across Canada.

The government has hired more case managers to help veterans and their families determine what careers are available once they leave the armed forces, and have increased the caregivers monthly tax-free benefit to $1,000 per month.

Additionally, the government is investing $4 million over the next five years into a wellbeing fund that will increase research on mental health issues to support veterans and their families.

“One in five Canadians suffer from mental health issues, and it’s no different for our veterans, in particular, given the often difficult circumstances they face during their years of service,” Hehr said.

“In Budget 2017, we follow through on our commitment to set up a centre of excellence in mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for veterans. This centre will provide research and education and well-being services for veterans and their families,” he added.

With her father, uncle and grandfather serving in the Canadian military, Georgian’s president and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes spoke of the close relationship between Georgian College and CFB Borden.

“An example of the close connection we have is that Georgian has many students with military background, some here thanks to the Operation Hero scholarship that Hon. Col. Jamie Massie and his wonderful colleagues launched to support students from military families to return to school,” West-Moynes said.

After the funding announcement, Massie explained Operation Hero is an endowed scholarship he helped start after meeting a mother and her two young sons, after she spoke to her husband via Skype while he was serving in Afghanistan.

“She was at home alone with the two kids. It broke my heart to witness this and then I got to speak to the mom afterwards and she told me she was trying to go to Georgian College,” Massie said.

To-date, Operation Hero has offered a dozen scholarships in memory of Pte. Kevin McKay – a Georgian College graduate – and Sapper Brian Collier of Bradford, who died within two months of each other in Afghanistan in 2010.

“To me it’s a wonderful remembrance of those two local heroes,” Massie said. “It’s like that young mom, it made a difference. She couldn’t go to school but we made it possible for her.

“And the applicants are truly amazing when you listen to them,” he added. “They embody everything that’s great about our country and I’m very, very proud that Georgian College is able to accommodate these family members of our Canadian Armed Forces personnel.”

CBrowne@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1



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