Alberta Health Services should act more like kids, and help veterans

Over the last few weeks, we have had to witness a move that can only be described as disappointing.

Over the last few weeks, we have had to witness a move that can only be described as disappointing. Alberta Health Services hastily decided to suspend the practice of free parking for veterans — a move that was defended initially by Health Minister Fred Horne.

The yearly parking passes are paid for by the Calgary Poppy Fund at a cost of $120 each. The 385 passes purchased each year are administered by the Legions in Calgary to veterans and their families, which allows them to park free of charge at AHS facilities.

When pressed for answers on the move, Penny Rae, the senior vice-president with Alberta Health Services, stated, “Why is this one group more worthy than others?”

Taking into account that a senior vice-president would even ask that question is a sign of just how out of touch the layers of managers in AHS truly are.

It’s disappointing when people that are supposed to understand and administrate a department that is based on compassion have no concept of what compassion is.

AHS has since done an about-face on its decision to suspend the parking passes for veterans, but it still leaves us with the questions, how and why would a decision like this even be contemplated? How could it be defended?

In stark contrast, we have a group of junior high school students in Veteran who seem to have a far superior understanding of compassion than that of AHS and how to honour those who fought for this country and the freedoms we enjoy.

The service medals belonging to Second World War veteran and Veteran resident, 91-year-old Dave Pennington, had accidentally been thrown out and the story caught the attention of 18 young junior high students.

Mr. Pennington earned five medals in total in his service to this country and was wounded by a piece of shrapnel while fighting a campaign in Italy.

Touched by Dave’s story, the students contacted the Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs office in Ottawa. After months of letter-writing and contacting government officials, the students received five replacement medals.

The only question left was how to present them to Mr. Pennington in a fashion deserving a war hero. That question was answered on March 28 at a ceremony organized by these amazing, compassionate young people, specifically to present Dave Pennington his medals and honour him for his bravery.

When Dave stood before the crowded gymnasium full of people with his medals proudly displayed on his chest, the crowd erupted in applause. There were a lot of tears in that small gymnasium that afternoon.

The Veteran war hero was quoted as saying, “These kids are so special to me.”

Mr. Pennington, it’s obvious that you are very special to these kids.

Perhaps the managers that manage managers and their staff within AHS should act a little more like the students at the Veteran Junior High School.

They seem to be able to answer that question that was asked by Penny Rae about why this one group is more worthy than others.

Rick Strankman is the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler. He can be reached via email at, or on Twitter at @RickStrankman.