Former Jamaican soldiers urged to help others

By RON FANFAIR

Have some former Jamaican soldiers forgotten how to follow the orders of their superiors?

Jamaica’s top military officer, Stewart Saunders, has again urged ex-soldiers in Canada to reach out and facilitate the integration of retiring and migrating defense personnel who choose to make this country their adopted homeland.

The Major General was the keynote speaker at the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association’s (JESA) 17th annual awards banquet last Saturday night. He made a similar challenge eight years ago at the organization’s major fundraiser.

“In my address to you in 2001, I asked you to look at establishing a job bank, the sole purpose of which was to avail service members who are retiring and migrating, the opportunity of seeing what’s available in their new environment and preparing themselves properly for life after the military,” Saunders told the audience at the sold-out event. “The job bank also serves as an excellent tool for interaction as queries can be made and guidance provided.

“In the same address, I asked you to look also at what you could do to create greater positives, where attitudes and values are concerned, amongst the youth who live in inner-city communities in Jamaica. They need to realize that there is more to life than they currently understand and they need to realize that they too can live in peace and harmony and achieve life long skills that will help to create a better Jamaica.

“Not much has happened in these two dimensions since I threw out the challenges and, while I understand the constraints under which you function as an organization, I wish to bring them back to the table for your urgent consideration.”

The JESA, which supports the Curphey Retirement Home for Ex-Soldiers in Jamaica, was the first organization comprising former soldiers to be established outside the Caribbean country. Associations have since been set up in New York and Florida and plans are underway to start an organization in England.

“I wish to draw your attention to the fact that of all the JESA chapters, yours is the most stable and the one that is well respected throughout the fraternity,” Saunders said. “The time, I strongly recommend, is now right for you to give deliberate consideration to the establishment of an umbrella or overarching body that governs JESA internationally…Should you achieve this, you will not only do the JDF (Jamaica Defense Force) proud, but you will also take ‘brand Jamaica’ of which you are an important part to new heights globally.

“You are now one of the measures by which our nation is identified and judged. In adopting this brand, you have now taken ownership of a part of your country and a serious responsibility to deliver your culture positively within the communities where you now live, assist and contribute.”

Saunders met several JDF soldiers who are currently doing basic aviation training at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology at Canadian Forces Base, Borden. They are among the last batch of soldiers participating in the 27-year Military Assistance Training Program (MATP) that ends in October 2010 when the last aircraft technician training class graduates. Aspiring aircraft technicians will now train at the new Jamaica Military Aviation School at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.

As part of their mission to provide financial assistance to students pursuing post-secondary education in Canada, the JESA presented bursaries to Tannic Allwood and Amanda McIntosh.

A graduate of Cawthra Park Secondary School, Allwood is enrolled in the University of Western Ontario’s Bachelor of Music and Actuarial Science programs. He aspires to be a pianist and actuary.

McIntosh, 18, graduated from St. Augustine Secondary School and is studying psychology at the University of Toronto. She plans to become an occupational therapist.

The JESA board of directors comprises Anthony Britton (president), Stanford Elliott (vice-president), Cedric Dryden (secretary), Ellie Oldacre (assistant secretary), Cassandra Hemmings (treasurer), Clifford Douglas (assistant treasurer) and Steve Duff (public relations officer).

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