Time and time again we hear amazing stories of love, bravery, sacrifice, and pain from our Veterans that keep us inspired to continue this work.
Every single one has a story worth sharing, so we’re happy for the chance to share a few with you.
Bruno Mathieu knows how it feels to be in a fire. As a teenager, he was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Beauceville, Quebec. His father was deputy fire chief and would often be behind the wheel of the fire truck as the crew responded to calls.
The truck contained just two self-contained breathing apparatuses that were to be worn only for human rescue. If no civilian lives were at stake, the firefighters would enter an inferno unprotected and they would pay the price, coughing up soot and blood for days after.
They were known as “smoke-eaters” and, to Bruno, it was all part of the job.
When Brian returned to Kabul, this time as a civilian counter-IED instructor, things were better. The anxiety and flashbacks started to dissipate.
But it didn’t last. Soon the symptoms he thought he’d left behind found their way to Afghanistan.
He tried to distract himself. He was volunteering for everything and doing anything he could think of to keep busy. But that didn’t work either. Reality set in: someday Brian would have to leave Afghanistan.
“I couldn’t do this forever. I am not going to live on tour,” Brian says. “I started having to get real honest. Eventually I am going home – and then what?”
He quit the military eight months after returning from Kandahar and ended up in Coquitlam, B.C., where he found work as a crane mechanic. His work became his life. He would get up. Go to work. Come home. Not talk to anyone. Sit alone. Go to bed. Wake up and do it all again. “I wasn’t Tim,” he says. “I was the job.”
Now Tim is back in school. He’s completing an undergraduate degree in psychology at Simon Fraser University. He also works for the Veterans Transition Network, which has expanded to six provinces across Canada and has over 500 graduates. “The program,” he says, “saved my life.”
After retiring from the Army, Sean moved to British Columbia. But moving away didn’t mean moving on. As the years went by he started to feel worse, and he still didn’t know how to talk about it. “I don’t know if things have changed, because I got out in 2007, but when I was in, if someone said they had PTSD it was career suicide,” Sean says. “A lot of guys were afraid to talk about their problems. A lot of guys have committed suicide because of that.”
The [VTN] gave Sean a chance to step back from his trauma and experience the emotion of it. “It’s giving your mind the time to actually address what has happened and file it away properly,” he says. “It’s helped tremendously, and I mean it was so nice just to get it off the chest and be able to deal with it, because the booze was a way of not dealing with it. It was my way of dealing with it, by not dealing with it.”