Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Urged to Award Memorial Cross to Mom of 'One-Penny' Soldier

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Urged to Award Memorial Cross to Mom of 'One-Penny' Soldier

Article excerpt

Silver Cross urged for mom of 'penny' soldier

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TORONTO - The mother of a Canadian soldier who was sent a one-penny government cheque after her son killed himself following a tour of duty in Afghanistan deserves a Memorial Cross, supporters say in a new petition.

They say it is unfair for military authorities to refuse to award Denise Stark the medal -- often called the Silver Cross -- for what they see as the service-related loss of Cpl. Justin Stark.

"It would be a sense of a closure, which we don't have, knowing that Justin's service would be recognized -- a recognition that I feel is long overdue," Stark told The Canadian Press Tuesday from Hamilton.

"It's time for the government to step up and just do the right thing."

The petition calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, his predecessor Justice Minister Peter MacKay, and Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to intervene in what they call the "gross injustices" perpetrated on the family.

Stark, 22, a reserve soldier with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, served a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan. In October 2011, 10 months after his return to Canada, he killed himself at the John Weir Foote Armouries in Hamilton.

A board of inquiry concluded in March that his tour in Afghanistan did not cause post-traumatic stress disorder -- PTSD -- which contributed to his suicide.

"It seems to us that any investigating body could not have determined one way or another that his death was or wasn't attributable to his military service," the petition states.

"Therefore we believe that the Canadian Armed Forces should have erred on the side of fairness, justice and compassion."

Petition co-organizer Keven Ellis, who heads the North Wall Riders Association veterans support group, said the issue crystallized for him at a recent Christmas gathering, where other moms were wearing the Silver Cross, which has been awarded in suicide situations. …

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