In September, senior defense and veterans affairs leaders and representatives from 14 nations convened for the third annual Warrior Care in the 21st
Century (WC21) Symposium in Toronto, Ontario. Each year, more nations claim seats at the table for an unprecedented level of global sharing of best practices and lessons learned for non-medical and medical care of military and veteran populations, and the communities dedicated to serving them.
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Air Commodore Rich Withnall, United Kingdom WC21 co-chair (left), Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of national defence (center left), Dr. Dorothy Narvaez-Woods, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs (center right), and Mr. Bret Stevens, U.S. WC21 co-chair (right) pose for a photo following Minister Sajjan’s September 22, 2017, keynote address. Senior representatives from 14 attending nations discussed their nations’ strategic priorities for warrior care. Photo courtesy of Canadian Armed Forces.
The symposium culminated year-long work group exploration and discussion across the focus areas of resilience, recovery and rehabilitation, and reintegration; Australia, the United Kingdom, and Georgia lead these group efforts, respectively. This year’s symposium featured military and veteran personnel testimonials that personified success stories and challenges across the international warrior care landscape. Veterans, joined by representatives from non-government organizations, illustrated the powerful impact of community-based programs and innovative collaboration across the public and private sectors, to better serve wounded, ill, and injured populations.
WC21 leadership praised the rich discussions from participants and challenged them to next think about strategic and practical application. “What we accomplish over these next three days must find its way back to our service members and their families,” said Mr. Bret Stevens, director of disability evaluation systems, DoD Warrior Care, and the U.S. WC21 coalition co-chair.
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Senior representatives Dr. Deirdre Rietdijk, senior advisor for the Netherlands Ministry of Defence (left), His Royal Highness Prince Mired Al-Hussein, president of Jordan’s Hashemite commission for disabled soldiers (center left), Brigadier General Dr. Bernd Mattiesen, Commissioner of the German Ministry of Defense for members of the armed forces suffering from PTSD and those wounded in action (center right), and Mrs. Tatia Oniani, acting head of the psychological support division for Georgia’s Ministry of Defence (right), observe a subject matter expert presentation on September 21, 2017. Photo courtesy of Canadian Armed Forces.
Dr. Dorothy Narvaez-Woods, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, acknowledged the power of multi-national subject matter expertise and collaboration to support wounded, ill, and injured missions. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka sent representation for the first time this year; returning nations include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Jordan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“I would be remiss if I did not recognize that we have some unique talent in this room, and the challenge before us is making the most of our time together,” said Narvaez-Woods. “Operating with a sense of urgency shows our warriors that we care about them, that we hold their journeys in high regard, that they and their families will face their challenges with support, priority, and—most importantly—dignity.”
Keynote speakers from the hosting Canadian government included Harjit Sajjan, minister of national defence, Seamus O’Regan, minister of veterans affairs, and Andrew Downes, surgeon general.
The fourth annual WC21 Symposium will be hosted by Australia in 2018.
View the WC21 2017 Symposium video opener on YouTube here.