Meet Gringo*

David B canadian armed forces in front of tutor jet
David B canadian armed forces in front of tutor jet

Participating in VTN’s Para training was a revelation for me. To see my brothers-in-arms open up, finally accepting their limitations and sometimes cry after feeling liberated, stirred up emotions and an intensity in me that I didn’t think I was capable of feeling!

Every VTN program includes the support of two Paras – two veterans who have already gone through the same program. The mere fact that us Paras have been through this before gives us a certain credibility and also an understanding of the participants. The fact that we are military ourselves who have trained in the same way and have had similar traumatic experiences as the participants also makes it easier for them to accept our presence. Our primary role is to welcome the participants and create an atmosphere of trust and friendliness. In every way possible, we also need to support the work of the two psychologists leading the exercises.

“I felt that my recovery depended on me, on my involvement, on my capacity to accept going deep inside myself, to come back with the right tools, to be able to welcome my anger, to accept my past and to admit my weaknesses. I learned that this is the only way to move on: by choosing yourself and forgiving yourself.”

Moreover, just getting a veteran to trust a psychologist is a victory in itself. A soldier is somewhat trained to be wary of civilians. Normally, they only listen to the advice of other soldiers. Often in the past, and sometimes even now, a soldier or a veteran who seeks help from a psychologist may feel that they will be seen as weak, which could risk jeopardizing their career. In this context, it is normal that seeing a specialist is viewed as more of a danger to be avoided than as a beneficial and therapeutic approach.

Once this prejudice is put aside, the two psychologists and us, the two Paras, work together to allow participants to take full advantage of the many benefits of TSC.

That’s exactly what I experienced when I was a participant in the TSC. I was fortunate to be taken care of by an amazing team. The two Paras became role models for me when I took on the Para role. I tried to be as open, unprejudiced, attentive, authentic and sincere as them. I think I managed to avoid falling into the trap of playing a “game.” You cannot do that with these guys. It doesn’t work. They can smell it a mile away! So I decided to be myself by being receptive, transparent and honest. It worked perfectly.

shattered glass black and white

However, when you look at the wounds of my childhood, my military career, my personal experiences, the ways I used to numb this immense pain, there are very few people, including myself, who would have dared to bet on my chances of becoming a Para. However, as a participant in the very first minutes of my own TSC, I understood, or rather I felt, that I belonged there.

“To see my brothers-in-arms open up, finally accepting their limitations and sometimes cry after feeling liberated, stirred up emotions and an intensity in me that I didn’t think I was capable of feeling!”

I felt that my recovery depended on me, on my involvement, on my capacity to accept going deep inside myself, to come back with the right tools, to be able to welcome my anger, to accept my past and to admit my weaknesses.  I learned that this is the only way to move on: by choosing yourself and forgiving yourself. And, in my opinion, it’s also the same path to become an excellent Para!

– Gringo

shattered glass black and white
*Gringo is the nickname of the veteran graduate and VTN Paraprofessional. He chose to use this name for the article as this is how he is recognized in the veteran community.