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The Unremembered

We remember

At least 70 soldiers and vets died by suicide after serving on the Afghanistan mission – a growing cohort excluded from official accounts. Dozens of families shared stories of Forces members who served, then suffered. For many of the soldiers, this is the first public recognition of their sacrifice

Published on November 4, 2016
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If you would like your relative included in the commemoration project , please e-mail remember@globeandmail.com
The Unremembered

We remember

At least 70 soldiers and vets died by suicide after serving on the Afghanistan mission – a growing cohort excluded from official accounts. Dozens of families shared stories of Forces members who served, then suffered. For many of the soldiers, this is the first public recognition of their sacrifice

Published on November 4, 2016

Canada pulled out of the Afghanistan conflict in 2014, but the war has not ended. Not there, where the violence continues. Not here, where battlefield trauma remains indelible and, for some soldiers, insurmountable.

A continuing Globe and Mail investigation has uncovered that at least 70 military members and veterans have taken their lives after returning from Canada’s longest military operation – much higher than the 54 revealed by the newspaper one year ago. Many of their suicides were connected to the mission, but they are not included in the official toll or honoured in military memorials. They are Canada’s unknown war dead.

There is no public list of military members who died by suicide in Canada. The tally of the fallen was a number without names – a count based on military statistics initially obtained under the access-to-information legislation by The Globe and Mail and nationwide obituary searches that began in 2014. Through reviews and analysis of death notices and social media, followed by phone calls, messages and letters to soldiers’ families, The Globe discovered the names of nearly 80 per cent of the 70 Canadian Forces members and veterans lost to suicide after returning from Afghanistan. Reporters Renata D’Aliesio, Les Perreaux and Allan Maki spent several months reaching out to their loved ones to commemorate these forgotten soldiers and to examine whether the military and Canada did enough to help them heal.

Thirty-one families agreed to participate. Many are speaking publicly about their loss for the first time. The fallen were proud military members from small towns and big cities. They were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers who left 40 children behind. These are their stories. To read them, tap on their photos or search by name.

15
of 31 suffered from PTSD – AS DIAGNOSED OR IDENTIFIED IN A CORONER’S INQUIRY

For some, signs of post-traumatic stress were present as soon as they returned from the Afghanistan mission. Horrific nightmares and flashbacks plagued the war-battered soldiers and kept them from sleeping. They were short-tempered and skittish, and many withdrew into isolation, pushing loved ones away. Fourteen were diagnosed with PTSD, according to their families and documents obtained by The Globe, while a coroner’s inquiry identified the mental illness in one other case. In another 10, families saw signs of PTSD, but the illness wasn’t diagnosed. In some instances, soldiers didn’t seek treatment because they feared it would affect their careers.

Warrant Officer Jowel Fils-Aimé July 6, 1964 – Oct. 2, 2008
I cannot go to sleep, Mom, because as soon as I close my eyes that’s what I see, okay? People being blown up. Little kids with grenades. The blood. You can’t imagine the blood that I’ve seen over there. Corporal Tony Reed
Corporal Tony Reed March 15, 1969 – Dec. 7, 2012
Master Corporal Denis Demers May 1, 1970 – Sept. 12, 2014
Warrant Officer Charles Ernest Florian Dec. 9, 1966 – Sept. 12, 2011
Corporal Jamie McMullin June 9, 1982 – June 17, 2011
12
OF 31 DIED BY SUICIDE WITHIN TWO YEARS OF RETURNING FROM THEIR LAST AFGHANISTAN TOUR

Their suicides came shockingly soon. Eight of the 12 killed themselves within a year of arriving home, raising questions about the thoroughness of their post-deployment health screening and the psychological support offered. Private Thomas Welch took his life a mere three months after returning from Kabul in 2004. The young infantry soldier from Northern Ontario is the first Canadian Forces member to die by suicide after serving in Afghanistan, The Globe’s investigation uncovered. For him and four other soldiers among the dozen, the dangerous deployment was their only overseas tour. All but two of the 12 had no mental-health issues before joining the military, their families said.

8
OF 31 SERVED IN MULTIPLE AFGHANISTAN MISSION TOURS

Multiple Afghanistan tours traumatized some troops. Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan began in 2001, not long after the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States rattled the world. The Afghanistan conflict is still raging, but Canada pulled its troops out in March, 2014, after losing 158 soldiers in the theatre. More than 40,000 Canadian Forces members served on the mission, many more than once. It was the country’s largest deployment of soldiers, sailors and air-force personnel since the Second World War. Master Corporal Charles Matiru went to Afghanistan four times, first as an infantry soldier and then with a secretive intelligence unit. His mental health worsened with each tour, his family said. He killed himself 18 months after his last deployment.

9
OF 31 WERE PART OF TASK FORCE 1-10, KANDAHAR, 2010

When the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Petawawa, arrived in Kandahar in 2010, the clock was already ticking down on Canada’s combat operation. The battle group and hundreds of other Canadian troops were part of Task Force 1-10, rotation 9, which was in theatre from February, 2010, until October that year. Canada had taken over military responsibility for the volatile southern province in August, 2005. Once in the Taliban stronghold, Canadian military casualties dramatically climbed.

Among the 31 suicides examined by The Globe, participation in the Task Force 1-10 deployment emerged most often. It’s unclear why, but the insurgency was still strong, corruption remained rampant, and security was fragile. Corporal Justin Stark’s war journal offers some insight. “You just never know when one step could be your last,” he wrote a month after arriving in Kandahar. He didn’t know if he would make it to his leave.

9
of 31 also served in the former Yugoslavia

A federation of six republics, Yugoslavia began tearing apart in 1991, as regions declared their independence and a brutal civil war erupted. A United Nations peacekeeping operation formed and Canada sent over tens of thousands of troops until leaving the Balkans in 2004. Canadians monitored ceasefire lines and secured routes for humanitarian supplies. But they also witnessed numerous atrocities as the conflict dragged on. For many Canadian soldiers, their difficult Balkan tours were followed by deployments to explosives-riddled Afghanistan. Retired Sergeant Paul Martin served four times in the former Yugoslavia before heading to Kandahar in 2008. A military inquiry into his suicide found that he was showing signs of PTSD before his Afghanistan tour.

5
of 31 were released from the military

Most military members who deployed to Afghanistan are still in the Forces, but the number grows smaller each year. As more battle-scarred soldiers are released, it will become increasingly important to monitor their transition and to understand how many are taking their lives, why and when. But suicides of former military personnel are not regularly tracked in Canada and won’t be for at least another year. Yet there are lessons to learn from each death: In the case of retired Private Tyler Hulme, his parents say he was facing a four-month wait for a civilian psychiatrist after his medical release from the military. The wait troubled the young, ill veteran and his parents, who both served in the Forces. “What am I supposed to do?” his mother recalled him desperately asking. One month after his military discharge, Pte. Hulme overdosed on prescription medication.

31 AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERANs lost to suicide
Retired Sergeant Ron Anderson May 27, 1974 – Feb. 24, 2014
Master Corporal Chris Carson Jan. 6, 1972 – April 6, 2016
Corporal Shaun Collins Nov. 27, 1983 – March 11, 2011
Retired Sergeant Raynald Côté April 24, 1973 – Dec. 27, 2015
Private Frédéric Couture July 18, 1985 – Nov. 14, 2007
Master Corporal Denis Demers May 1, 1970 – Sept. 12, 2014
Captain Brad Elms Jan. 21, 1963 – Nov. 3, 2014
Retired Sergeant Claude Emond Sept. 5, 1965 – Sept. 2, 2014
Corporal James Ferguson April 2, 1987 – Aug. 2, 2014
Warrant Officer Jowel Fils-Aimé July 6, 1964 – Oct. 2, 2008
Warrant Officer Charles Ernest Florian Dec. 9, 1966 – Sept. 12, 2011
Retired Private Tyler Hulme Jan. 25, 1987 – April 29, 2014
Corporal Stuart Langridge March 26, 1979 – March 15, 2008
Sergeant Paul Martin June 27, 1974 – Sept. 8, 2011
Captain Linden Mason July 6, 1975 – Jan. 25, 2012
Master Corporal Charles Matiru Aug. 2, 1980 – Jan. 15, 2013
Retired Corporal Sean McClintock Sept. 16, 1969 – Feb. 2, 2016
Sergeant Doug McLoughlin Feb. 7, 1976 – March 3, 2013
Corporal Jamie McMullin June 9, 1982 – June 17, 2011
Warrant Officer Michael McNeil March 6, 1974 – Nov. 27, 2013
Corporal Tony Reed March 15, 1969 – Dec. 7, 2012
Captain Patrick Rushowick Nov. 17, 1984 – June 11, 2013
Corporal Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez March 9, 1985 – Jan. 8, 2014
Corporal Brandon Shepherd April 21, 1988 – Sept. 4, 2011
Corporal Scott Smith Feb. 7, 1983 – Dec. 10, 2014
Corporal Justin Stark June 23, 1989 – Oct. 29, 2011
Corporal John Unrau Aug. 27, 1972 – July 1, 2015
Corporal Bernie Walton Oct. 2, 1964 – Oct. 10, 2007
Master Corporal Tyson Washburn April 3, 1976 – March 15, 2014
Private Thomas Welch Oct. 25, 1981 – May 8, 2004
Corporal Joshua Wood Jan. 13, 1981 – May 20, 2011
Credits

Reporting and writing by RENATA D'ALIESIO, LES PERREAUX and ALLAN MAKI; Interactive design and development by JEREMY AGIUS; Editing by DENNIS CHOQUETTE and CATHERINE DAWSON MARCH; Multimedia editing by LAURA BLENKINSOP; Photo editing by MOE DOIRON; Photo illustration by JEREMY AGIUS; Proofing by JEROME KINOSHITA, MADELEINE WHITE and LORI FAZARI; Promotion by JOSH HARGREAVES

THE UNREMEMBERED

31 lives lost to suicide

Many were teenagers when they joined the Canadian Forces. Some were new husbands and fathers when they left for war. All 31 military members served on the Afghanistan mission. They all took their lives after returning home, several within a year of leaving the battlefield. The Globe and Mail spoke with their families as part of its continuing investigation of suicides of military personnel who deployed to Afghanistan. Together, their stories reveal the depths of war trauma on Canadian soldiers and their families. They also expose serious flaws in military policies and mental-health services designed to help vulnerable soldiers heal.

31 lives

  • Enlisted
  • Years of service
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Show all 31

Military

Two-thirds were in the infantry or armoured corps, which shouldered much of the combat operations in Afghanistan. But they weren’t the only ones exposed to trauma. Among the 31 lost to suicide were an air traffic controller, a medic and a cook. More than half had been in the military for fewer than 10 years.

Family and relationships

Military life is hard on families. Soldiers spend long stretches away from home, in training and on deployments to war zones and regions ravaged by natural disasters. The after-effects of the Afghanistan conflict exacted a heavy toll on many military families. Nearly 70 per cent of those who were in a committed partnership experienced a relationship breakdown not long before their suicide.

Health

When soldiers need medical help, they must turn to the military’s health system. Their families and veterans, however, fall under provincial medicare. Most of the 31 fallen did not have mental-health issues before joining the Forces, their families said. More than two-thirds received some form of mental-health treatment after returning from their Afghanistan tour. A dozen threatened or attempted to take their life before they died.

Retired Sergeant Ron Anderson with his four children on the first day of school in September, 2013. Photo courtesy Anderson family
Retired Sergeant Ron Anderson May 27, 1974 – Feb. 24, 2014

Age: 39 years old

Hometown: Oromocto, N.B.

Resided: Doaktown, N.B.

Unit: 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Gagetown

Retired Sergeant Anderson was a child of the military. He was born in Lahr, Germany, where his father was stationed with the Canadian Forces. The family moved a lot during Peter Anderson’s 30-year army career, to Yellowknife, Gagetown, N.B., and to Cornwallis and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. A rambunctious child who didn’t like to be stuck inside, Sgt. Anderson was in the army cadets and reserves before joining the regular force at 19. By the time he deployed to Afghanistan for the second time, the proud infantry soldier had already completed four overseas assignments, including three missions to the former Yugoslavia.

After Afghanistan: Sgt. Anderson was showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder before his return to Afghanistan in 2007, his parents said. But he was determined to deploy, because his younger brother, Ryan, was on the same tour. One of the deadliest days for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan occurred during their stint. Sgt. Anderson and his crew were behind an armoured vehicle that was struck by a roadside bomb on April 8, 2007. Six soldiers were killed – five from Gagetown and one from a Halifax-based reserve. All were his friends: Sgt. Anderson and his men had to gather their remains. “He saw a lot of death and dying, and that really bothered him,” his mother, Maureen Anderson, said. His parents could see that he was struggling upon his return from the battlefield. He was drinking harder, having trouble sleeping, and was withdrawn. He wasn’t even playing with his four young children. Sgt. Anderson was found guilty in October, 2008, of uttering threats against his then-wife and her parents, but the judge gave him a conditional discharge, noting that PTSD had completely changed his life. The mental illness had affected his work, finances, marriage and family. He had never been in trouble with the law before.

Last Post: The long-time soldier sought help for his mental illness, going to counselling and taking medication. Along with PTSD, he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. He was released from the military in May, 2013, and moved to Doaktown, N.B., with his new partner and her son. His four children joined them in August. He quit drinking to look after them, but he was struggling financially to care for everyone. Unable to work because of his illnesses, he was reliant on his disability benefits and a pension from Veterans Affairs. Sgt. Anderson was stressed, but no one thought he was suicidal. He shot himself in a shed at his home on Feb. 24, 2014, less than a year after his medical discharge from the military. He had been in the regular force for nearly two decades.

Remembrance: The Andersons have a framed picture of their son with his four kids, taken on the first day of school in September, 2013. The retired sergeant’s left arm is wrapped around his boys; his twin girls are in front. He looks so happy, sporting a big grin for the camera. It’s their last family portrait.

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Master Corporal Chris Carson with his daughters, Breanna in the front, Dakota, left, and Haven, getting a kiss on the cheek. Photo courtesy Wayne and Jane Carson
Master Corporal Chris Carson Jan. 6, 1972 – April 6, 2016

Age: 44 years old

Hometown: Woodstock, Ont.

Resided: Greenwood, N.S.

Unit: CFB Greenwood

A father of four girls, Master Corporal Carson was 36 when he joined the air force after working in factories most of his life. He was a crane operator and a warehouse supervisor in Woodstock, Ont., but he didn’t think a career in manufacturing offered much security. There was a long line of military service in his family, including his great-grandfather, who fought in the First and Second World Wars. The air force suited his thrill-seeking personality, his aunt, Sharon Graham, said. A boxer and student of karate, MCpl. Carson thrived in tough conditions, including a seven-month stint in Afghanistan in 2010. He was a private then and part of the tactical air-control team. His job involved confirming and relaying co-ordinates for air strikes, his father, Wayne Carson, said. He received a wing commander’s commendation because he “consistently performed above his rank” and showed “maturity, dedication to duty and expertise” that made him instrumental in air-attack missions in Afghanistan.

After Afghanistan: Nearly three years after returning from Afghanistan in November, 2010, MCpl. Carson was sent to El Gorah, Egypt for a peacekeeping operation in the Sinai Peninsula. He kept a journal while there. His family said his writings show that he was feeling down at times during the tour and was homesick for his kids. When he returned in April, 2014, his marriage began unravelling, which devastated him. His overseas assignments also seemed to have affected his well-being. His family said he struggled with silence, quarrelled and began drinking. Before his tours, he hardly touched alcohol. He also seemed easily startled. One time, he jumped out of his seat when a tray hit the floor at a McDonald’s, a friend told his aunt. “She said Chris almost went through the ceiling. … It was automatically fight or flight,” his aunt said. He also struggled to sleep, telling his aunt he saw body parts in wheelbarrows and blown-up Jeeps in his nightmares. His family in Ontario were worried. It was hard being so far away.

Last Post: He told his parents and aunt that his attempts to get counselling were stymied. He went from being a high-performing air-traffic controller – fast-tracked through two promotions – to being assigned to work alone in a storage room at the Greenwood base, his father said. He had planned to make the air force his lifelong career, but nothing seemed to be going right. He attempted to take his life nearly a year before he died, and called 9-1-1 when he regained consciousness. His wife got a court order that prohibited him from contacting her or their daughters, his father said. He was contesting the order, and was supposed to talk with his lawyer on April 6, 2016, but didn’t phone. MCpl. Carson had killed himself in the basement of his home.

Remembrance: MCpl. Carson loved the outdoors and took his girls with him on hunting and hiking trips. He taught them how to use a bow and arrow. “Everything that Chris did, he did for his kids,” his step-mom, Jane Carson, said.

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Corporal Shaun Collins with fiancée Laura Boyd. Photo courtesy Laura Boyd
Corporal Shaun Collins Nov. 27, 1983 – March 11, 2011

Age: 27 years old

Hometown: Edmonton

Resided: Edmonton

Unit: 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, CFB Edmonton

Corporal Collins was waiting at the bottom of the movie-theatre escalators, in a black ball cap and his favourite jacket. He was about to meet Laura Boyd for the first time, a girl he’d been chatting with online. She arrived with her friends, just in case he was trouble. But he was so warm and friendly, her friends approved right away. “He was a great guy. Everybody loved him,” she said. Cpl. Collins had already completed a tour in Afghanistan when the pair met in September, 2007. He had just transferred to the regular force from the reserves. He found a sense of belonging in the army, his father, Gary Collins, said.

After Afghanistan: Cpl. Collins began seeing a military social worker after his older sister was murdered in 2008. He told the social worker he was frustrated that no one had yet been arrested in her killing. He also complained about being bullied by his own unit, according to a provincial fatality inquiry into his death. The next time the social worker saw him was in August, 2010, three months after the infantry solider returned from his second Afghanistan deployment. The social worker told the inquiry Cpl. Collins was showing signs of depression and anxiety. He wasn’t sleeping much, drinking more and got angry quickly. Ms. Boyd, his fiancée, said he was haunted by his wartime experiences. “Shaun held a lot of guilt about the people he killed overseas,” she said. “With Shaun, it was almost debilitating.”

Last Post: Cpl. Collins struggled to get care. There was no follow up by the military when he first asked for mental-health services after his second tour. When help finally came, Ms. Boyd said he was bounced among therapists. He threatened to take his life four times in less than a year. Desperate to heal, he turned to a psychologist outside the military. The trauma specialist told the inquiry that he was the most severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder she had seen, but he was making progress. On March 9, 2011, the military transferred him to the Joint Personnel Support Unit for ill and wounded soldiers. On his first day there, several key people were away. Frustrated, he went drinking and was arrested by military police for alleged impaired driving. He hanged himself that night in a military cell and died in a hospital two days later. The cell block didn’t have working video cameras and the cell-door bars were unshielded, posing a hanging risk, the inquiry was told. The inquiry judge concluded it was “irrefutable” that there were missed opportunities to potentially prevent Cpl. Collins’s suicide. He had been left alone in the cell for 22 minutes.

Remembrance: He was very empathic, his father said. “He would go out of his way to help people. He didn’t like to see anyone get picked on. He didn’t like to see anyone treated unfairly.”

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Retired Sergeant Raynald Côté and comrades during a 1996 peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Photo courtesy Côté family
Retired Sergeant Raynald Côté April 24, 1973 – Dec. 27, 2015

Age: 42 years old

Hometown: Quebec City

Resided: Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval, Que.

Unit: 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, CFB Valcartier

Retired Sergeant Côté came from modest working-class origins. He always wanted to make a good living and “fly with his own wings,” as one family member said. With his chiselled jaw and good looks, he was approached about modelling in his early adult years but chose the military instead. Sgt. Côté wanted to change the world, and the military seemed like the surest route. A charmer, Sgt. Côté was also an adrenalin junky and excelled at sports from hockey to kite surfing. He served in Afghanistan in 2004 after missions in Haiti and Yugoslavia.

After Afghanistan: Sgt. Côté was forced into retirement from military service in 2009 after a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. He seemed to respond well to medication and therapy and was the subject of a University of Calgary study on PTSD. He returned to school and became a plumber. But in 2012, Sgt. Côté fell from a ladder while at work. Surgery failed to repair his shoulder, putting on hold his second career and the sporting life he loved. Severe paranoia and depression began to set in as the injury failed to respond to treatment.

Last Post: Sgt. Côté died at the dream home he built as a retirement project. He had received extensive treatment for his PTSD, including psychiatric sessions and drugs but it all stopped working. The house project was supposed to give him purpose. Instead, the mounting debts added stress. Sgt. Côté would describe his mental illness as a form of brain cancer. “He wanted so badly to accomplish something,” said his partner, Marie-Claude Deschênes. “Instead we were exhausted.” Sgt. Côté left behind a daughter, Dali-Jade and a son, Trystan.

Remembrance: Sgt. Côté was in the military nearly 20 years and served stints as a sniper and parachutist, but one of his favourite war stories was about the time he delivered a baby on the street during a 1996 peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

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Private Frédéric Couture while he was on a mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in 2006. Photo courtesy Couture family
Private Frédéric Couture July 18, 1985 – Nov. 14, 2007

Age: 22 years old

Hometown: Roxton Pond, Que.

Resided: Roxton Pond, Que.

Unit: 2nd Batallion, Royal 22e Régiment, CFB Valcartier

Private Couture knew he wanted to be a soldier from age 4. His uncle had been in the army and his mother Linda Lagimonière always said if she hadn’t married and had children she might have joined up, too. Private Couture’s parents convinced him to hold off for a while after high-school graduation so he could get a taste of adult civilian life. At 19 he signed up and 29 months later he was off to Afghanistan. Pte. Couture was on patrol in Kandahar province Dec. 16, 2006 when he stepped on a land mine, blowing off his left leg below the knee. A London Telegraph reporter on patrol with his unit captured the immediate aftermath on video. “I’m 21 years old and I’ve lost my leg. What am I going to do now?” Pte. Couture said. Ms. Lagimonière would learn much later that Pte. Couture also reached for his pistol. He wanted to end it on the spot.

After Afghanistan: Pte. Couture was released from a Montreal hospital on Christmas Eve eight days after he was wounded on a dusty Afghan ridge. He told reporters at the time just how happy he was to be going home. “I’m no hero. I did my job,” he said. Over nine months of rehabilitation, Pte. Couture was upbeat. He trained fiercely with the intent of returning to the military. He made occasional media appearances and was held up as an example of resilience in the face of trauma.

Last Post: One week before Pte. Couture was due to return to work, Ms. Lagimonière noted a change in his behaviour. He became sullen and stopped taking care of himself. Looking back, Ms. Lagimonière believes Pte. Couture had come to realize he would never be a field soldier again. As an amputee he could not be declared fit for combat. Still, he expressed no thoughts of suicide. Just before supper, three days after Remembrance Day, he shot himself in the head in his parents’ driveway. His family found a suicide note and his last wishes for distributing his belongings. He left behind his mother, father Yvan Couture, his brother Bruno-Pierre and sister Audrey.

Remembrance: Pte. Couture was among the early, very public suicide cases for soldiers who served in Afghanistan. He had little help with reintegration and mental-health screening or treatment, Ms. Lagimonière said. But she is convinced her son has left a legacy of improved mental-health care for soldiers. “He always wanted help people, to change the world,” Ms. Lagimonière said. “I think he has.”

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Master Corporal Denis Demers on one of his two tours in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy Erin McMeekin
Master Corporal Denis Demers May 1, 1970 – Sept. 12, 2014

Age: 44 years old

Hometown: Grand-Mère, Que.

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: 2 Field Ambulance, CFB Petawawa

A guitarist with a passion for photography and the great outdoors, Master Corporal Demers joined the Canadian Forces in 2002 and served as a medic in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2010. He earned praise as a generous colleague, a mentor and an excellent caregiver who loved helping soldiers in the field. He welcomed newcomers to his unit while pushing them to be excellent. “He was a man who went above and beyond to help another brother or sister,” Erin McMeekin, a friend and former medic, said.

After Afghanistan: MCpl. Demers was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered a heart problem that limited his physical activity. (He loved to run.) Family and friends were concerned for his mental health as it deteriorated but they were powerless to stop his spiral. Occasional counselling didn’t seem to help. At least three times MCpl. Demers was brought to the hospital by police following a breakdown. Each time he was out in days. He also talked his way out. He was adept at minimizing crises with his fellow caregivers, friends say. “He knew how to talk to them, to speak their language,” Ms. McMeekin said.

Last Post: The final spiral began Aug. 30, 2014. On that day MCpl. Demers surrendered peacefully after a 37-hour armed standoff with police at his home in Petawawa. He was taken into custody under the Mental Health Act but was free after a few days. About two weeks later, MCpl. Demers overdosed on medication and bled himself using an intravenous line meant for his heart problem. Back in the hospital, he told emergency-room doctors it was all a misunderstanding and was released again. MCpl. Demers went missing almost immediately, and his body was found in a vehicle in a wooded area not far from his home.

Remembrance: MCpl. Demers treasured camping excursions with his four boys, aged 10 to 14. Former colleagues say before his illness he was a funny man, a terrific medic and “the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back.”

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Captain Brad Elms with his children Jake and Stephanie. Photo courtesy Elms family
Captain Brad Elms Jan. 21, 1963 – Nov. 3, 2014

Age: 51 years old

Hometown: London, Ont.

Resided: Kingston

Unit: Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre Headquarters, CFB Kingston

Captain Elms had steely determination. A rock climber and marathon runner, he won the military’s version of the Ironman at the Petawawa base, northwest of Ottawa, at the age of 29. The punishing race starts with a 32-kilometre run in combat boots and a 40-pound rucksack on the shoulders. He was “a pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it” kind of man, recalled his wife, Sherri Elms. The couple were teenagers when they met on the dance floor of a bar near the Gagetown base in New Brunswick. Capt. Elms was a private then – tall, smart, eloquent and pragmatic. Ms. Elms was studying to become a pharmacist. The couple had two children, Jake and Stephanie. The kids camped, hiked and went on runs with their dad when he wasn’t deployed. Capt. Elms served in Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti before heading to Afghanistan in September, 2008. He was with the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, which worked with and trained Afghan soldiers.

After Afghanistan: He was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder in March, 2003. His tours in Somalia and Bosnia had been tough. He lost a good friend in Somalia. His mental health worsened after he returned from Afghanistan in 2009, his family said. He started drinking more often, and was constantly angry. His son and daughter, who were teenagers at the time, tiptoed around the house for fear of setting him off. “The person that I grew up with and went camping with in New Brunswick was not the same person,” his daughter said. “He was so, so sick.”

Last Post: His wife and children suspected he had post-traumatic stress disorder, but he refused to seek help because he worried doing so would prevent him from deploying again. He looked drained and thin just before his death. He had dropped about 30 pounds, and was down to 167 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. He was worried about what he would do for work after the army, a military inquiry into his suicide noted. The inquiry report stated that Capt. Elms was a “proud, meticulous and methodical officer” and a “significant part of his self-worth was tied to his life as a solider and his ability to conduct operations.” Capt. Elms shot himself on Nov. 3, 2014 at the Kingston Mills locks. He was a high-performing soldier: his suicide stunned the military. “He was, in his soul, a soldier’s soldier. He kept going when nobody else could,” Ms. Elms said. “They have to recognize that you train these people to be soldiers, so it’s going to be harder to treat them. It’s going to be harder to get to them. It’s going to be harder for them to stop moving forward and admit that they have a problem, because you’ve trained them to walk until they die.”

Remembrance: Capt. Elms would help his children with their essays, and always encouraged them to excel in and out of the classroom. “He pushed us a lot,” his daughter said. “And he really encouraged our outdoorsy side.” Both have gone on to Queen’s University, where Jake is studying kinesiology and Stephanie is focusing on philosophy.

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Shared memories of Captain Brad Elms

Comments may have been edited or condensed

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Retired Chief Warrant Officer Don Tupper wrote:

I knew and served with Brad after I joined the military in 1983. He was an instructor for our basic training and subsequent trade qualification courses. We served on a Northern European Command Infantry Competition team and later on I was his quartermaster when he was sergeant major of India Company in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

Brad was a super intelligent and when he was not familiar with something he would see a challenge and learn the subject inside and out until he became an authority on it. I always wanted to enter him on that show, Canada’s Smartest Person. He could solve any type of problem put in front of him.

If he was your friend, you knew you could count on him, no matter how difficult the situation. He was loyal to his family, his friends and his country.

He is dearly missed.

Retired Sergeant Claude Emond with his wife, Sylvie Duchesne, on vacation in Cuba in 2007. Photo courtesy Emond family
Retired Sergeant Claude Emond Sept. 5, 1965 – Sept. 2, 2014

Age: 48 years old

Hometown: Rimouski, Que.

Resided: Quebec City

Unit: CFB Montreal

Retired Sergeant Emond had to leave the army to realize how much he belonged. He first enlisted in 1990, left after three years, and returned to boot camp in 1996. A refrigeration specialist, Sgt. Emond went to Afghanistan in 2009 where he put in long hours building kitchens and keeping vital cooling systems running in sweltering heat. Sylvie Duchesne said her husband worked in forward camps that came under attack. “He spoke of killing and seeing people killed, of picking up the pieces of dead children,” she said. Sgt. Emond’s back gave out before the end of his tour. He returned to Quebec with 11 herniated discs and unbearable pain.

After Afghanistan: Sgt. Emond struggled with two injuries and no easy cure for either: Post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating back pain. For his back, doctors offered little hope. He soon used a cane, a walker and eventually a wheelchair. He took a lot of medication and was under psychological care for PTSD, but he found it lacking. “To him it seemed superficial,” Ms. Duchesne said. Sgt. Emond became paranoid and bought numerous firearms. “He said he no longer could protect his family without a gun. He was constantly worried about intruders,” she said. She had to tell him to put away the pistol he kept under his pillow. He was released from the military for medical reasons in December, 2013.

Last Post: Sgt. Emond and Ms. Duchesne were in their hot tub on a September evening in 2014 when the conversation turned to his mood swings, his paranoia and all those guns in the house. Things would have to change. “He could see I might be on the verge of leaving,” Ms. Duchesne said. “We were in the middle of this intense conversation when he got out the spa, went into the bedroom, put on his pajama pants, sat down on the bench and shot himself.” His wife and 20-year-old son rushed to his side and watched as he breathed for a few more minutes.

Remembrance: A bon vivant, Sgt. Emond took immense pride in his physical fitness and ability in martial arts, and he was also proud of his two boys who were also active in sports. One of his sons even joined the army. Sgt. Emond had outside pursuits but was “a military man above all else,” Ms. Duchesne said. “He was set aside and no longer felt useful. He knew his situation wasn’t going to get better and he always swore he would not be a burden.”

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Corporal James Ferguson on vacation in the Dominican Republic in 2011. He loved animals. Photo courtesy Cathie Ferguson
Corporal James Ferguson April 2, 1987 – Aug. 2, 2014

Age: 27 years old

Hometown: Cobourg, Ont.

Resided: Pembroke, Ont.

Unit: 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa

Corporal Ferguson arrived home from school one day and declared: “I want to join the army.” He already had his job picked out. He wanted to be a sniper. He was in Grade 6 or 7 then, so his mother, Cathie Ferguson, didn’t take his pronouncement too seriously. “Kids change their mind 100 times,” she recalled thinking. Her eldest son was bright and easygoing. He loved animals, video games, hiking and camping with his mother and younger brother, Geordi. About a year after high school, Cpl. Ferguson fulfilled his childhood dream and joined the army. “He loved military life,” his mother said. “He couldn’t understand why people only joined for a few years.” As his deployment to Afghanistan neared, all he could talk about was the tour. He couldn’t wait to go. He left for Kandahar in late April, 2010.

After Afghanistan: A military inquiry into his death noted that Cpl. Ferguson was involved in multiple firefights and witnessed several traumatic events while overseas. He was in one of the troops which took stock of the death and damage inflicted on insurgent battlegrounds. But Cpl. Ferguson did not seem to be suffering from mental-health issues, his mother said. Fellow soldiers told the inquiry that they didn’t notice any significant changes in his behaviour. He was promoted to corporal from private in 2011 and considered a strong candidate for a junior leadership role. The inquiry report noted that he was an “excellent and professional soldier” who loved his job in the Canadian Forces.

Last Post: In July, 2013, Cpl. Ferguson married a woman he met online three years earlier, while in Afghanistan. Their relationship fell apart about a year after they wed. Two days before his death, Cpl. Ferguson called a military padre to talk about his marital troubles. The next day, his wife, who was in Ottawa, called 9-1-1, saying he had threatened to take his life via text messages and phone conversations. Cpl. Ferguson was taken to the Pembroke hospital for assessment and deemed not suicidal. His mom went to Pembroke and spent the day with her son. He assured her that he was fine and said he hoped to repair his relationship with his wife. He took his life the next day in his bedroom, while home alone on Aug. 2, 2014. His wife told the military inquiry that she believed he had post-traumatic stress disorder, but her assertion was not supported by others who testified.

Remembrance: Cpl. Ferguson loved to have fun, no matter what the situation, his brother recalled. In her care packages to Afghanistan, Ms. Ferguson sent her son a remote-control car, gummy bear soldiers and a Nerf gun – things to lighten the mood when he wasn’t on the front lines. Back in Ontario, Emily Provincial Park was a favourite camping spot for the Ferguson boys. “It was the first place I took them to,” their mother said. “They loved the nature trails there.”

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Warrant Officer Fils-Aimé́é with his daughter, Janice, in 1995 near the Jacques Cartier River at CFB Valcartier. Photo courtesy Fils-Aimé family
Warrant Officer Jowel Fils-Aimé July 6, 1964 – Oct. 2, 2008

Age: 44 years old

Hometown: Dessalines, Haiti

Resided: Quebec City

Unit: 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, CFB Valcarter

Warrant Officer Fils-Aimé was born in Haiti and came to Canada at age 12, reuniting with his mother who was living in Quebec. He joined the reserves at 17, became an infantryman and took on a series of missions that spanned 20 years, including turns in Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Haiti, Bosnia and finally Afghanistan. During the first mission in Cyprus in 1992 he met a Norwegian named Ragnhild Oterholm. They married and had two children. Janice Oterholm Fils-Aimé says she knew from a young age that her father didn’t have a normal job. After a mission to his homeland of Haiti in 1996 – where, she recalls, “he saw gruesome things happen to his own people” – he was already showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. “It started with him not being able to sleep, whispering while praying to God to let him have some rest. I saw and heard my father scream out of terror while jumping right up. His nightmares felt so real to him.” Still, he carried on with a successful military career including a stint in Afghanistan some 10 years after the first signs of PTSD.

After Afghanistan: WO Fils-Aimé returned to Canada in March 2008 after serving as an instructor to Afghan security forces. Janice and her brother, David, spent the summer in Quebec City with their dad. Fifteen years old at the time, Ms. Oterholm Fils-Aimé remembers finding her father sipping rum and staring at a blank TV screen late at night. She put her head on his shoulder and felt his anxiety lift.

Last Post: Life reached a crisis point for WO Fils-Aimé in the fall of 2008. A friend found him sweating and disoriented at a banking machine at CFB Valcartier and brought him to the base medical centre. He was sent home with pills and a doctor’s note to take two weeks off. A few days later WO Fils-Aimé put on his uniform, drove to a quiet parking lot at CFB Valcartier, walked to the bank of the Jacques-Cartier River, filled his pockets with stones and went in. He could not swim. A Quebec coroner who investigated the circumstances surrounding his death would later find he was suffering from PTSD.

Remembrance: WO Fils-Aimé is remembered as a courageous, serious and proud soldier who was the glue that held three generations of family together in three countries. “He was kind, had a good heart, he was funny and very intelligent,” Ms. Oterholm Fils-Aimé said. “He was a wonderful father and also my best friend.”

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Warrant Officer Charles Florian served in a bomb-defusing unit during his final Afghanistan tour. Canadian Forces Handout
Warrant Officer Charles Ernest Florian Dec. 9, 1966 – Sept. 12, 2011

Age: 44 years old

Hometown: Sydney, N.S.

Resided: Harrowsmith, Ont.

Unit: Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics, CFB Kingston

Warrant Officer Florian joined the military in 1988. After 9/11 he served two missions at sea in the Persian Gulf and two tours on land in Afghanistan. During his final mission in 2009, he was a senior non-commissioned officer in a counter-explosives unit that defused insurgent bombs. Several soldiers in WO Florian’s unit died or were wounded during his tour, including one death just before his mid-tour leave in June. He wanted to stay in the field with his men but the military’s vacation schedule didn’t allow last-minute changes. “It was a horrible tour,” said his wife and fellow soldier Master Corporal A.J. Cottreau. She added that he showed signs of stress during his time off.

After Afghanistan: WO Florian was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder shortly after the end of his last mission. Sudden heavy drinking and angry mood swings were completely out of character. “He came home in November 2009, and he was a stranger,” MCpl. Cottreau said. He saw a series of doctors, social workers and mental-health professionals. He would get better for a time and resume his instructor role at the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics, but he would regress and need more time off.

Last Post: While WO Florian was clearly suffering, MCpl. Cottreau saw no immediate warning signs leading to her husband’s death. She was at a friend’s house Sept. 3, 2011, when a neighbour called to report a strange noise coming from their home. She returned to find her husband on the garage floor, unconscious, near the garden tractor with its engine running. He was in a coma for nine days before he died in at Kingston General Hospital. He didn’t leave a note.

Remembrance: Soldiers came by the busload to WO Florian’s hospital bed to say goodbye. “He loved doing stuff for people,” MCpl. Cottreau said. “This was something they did for him.” A music lover, WO Florian was happy to act as tour guide for folk singer Bruce Cockburn during his visit to Afghanistan. He once made a teddy bear for his wife while on a tour of duty. When squeezed, the bear plays a recording of WO Florian calling her by a nickname: “BeeBee, BeeBee! I miss you and love you a whole big bunch, and if you are hugging the bear, you’re hugging me! Bye-Bye!,” the bear says. “He was so corny,” MCpl. Cottreau said. “I hug it once in a while. It’s a piece of him.”

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Retired Private Tyler Hulme with his father, Bruce Hulme. Photo courtesy Hulme family
Retired Private Tyler Hulme Jan. 25, 1987 – April 29, 2014

Age: 27 years old

Hometown: Petawawa, Ont.

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: 2 Service Battalion, CFB Petawawa

Retired Private Hulme was the comedian in the family, keeping his parents and sister laughing with wisecracks. He was compassionate, had a lot friends and could fit in anywhere, his mother, Jackie Hulme, said. He was working at Burger King when he decided to join the military. He had finished high school and wasn’t sure what to do with his life. His parents were both in the army and enjoyed their work. So, at 19, he followed in their footsteps, joining the same supply-technician trade. His parents were happy that he enlisted. “I knew he was going somewhere where he would be fed, learn skills, and have a sense of discipline that every teenager needs,” his father, Bruce Hulme, said. The young private deployed to Camp Mirage, a Canadian Forces base in Dubai, in March, 2009. The base was part of the Afghanistan mission, and his job was to collect and distribute weapons.

After Afghanistan: He was scheduled to go to Kandahar in 2010, on the same tour as his mother. She had already been to Afghanistan in 2003, while his father deployed to the war zone in 2008. Their son seemed excited to go, but he tested positive for marijuana and was taken off the mission. The failed test scuttled his promotion to corporal. His behaviour became increasingly erratic. He was drinking heavily, getting into trouble with the law and taking steroids to bulk up. He had hallucinations and became paranoid. He thought he was being spied on. Military doctors suspected he was depressed and prescribed antidepressants in April, 2010. But the medication made him feel worse and triggered manic episodes. It was his mother’s online research that uncovered his illness: He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in mid-2012.

Last Post: Pte. Hulme was having trouble at work because of his health. Veterans Affairs concluded in 2013 that the stress of the Afghanistan mission may have contributed to the onset of his “depressive and anxiety symptoms.” The military, however, had labelled him a malcontent and wanted to dismiss the private for being unsuitable for service. With the help of his father, he fought to get a medical release, and was discharged on March 22, 2014. “My destructive demeanour was far removed from the true person that I am and the person I wish to become,” Pte. Hulme wrote for an administrative review before his discharge. “I was not in control of my thoughts and actions due to my bipolar disorder.” A little more than a month after his release from the army, Pte. Hulme took his life by overdosing on medication. He was facing a four-month wait for a civilian psychiatrist. Heartbroken, his mother cried every day for five months after his death. The Hulmes believe many institutions failed their son, from the military and its medical staff, to the public-health sector, law enforcement and the courts. “The mental-health system is broken,” his mother said.

Remembrance: Pte. Hulme wanted to get better, staying sober (except for a brief relapse) for much of 2010. During this time, he went rafting and zip-lining and started dating again. He wanted to be a person others could look up to as a leader, he wrote for his alcohol-support group. Titled “The Man in the Mirror,” he also wrote he wanted to be, “a person who can truly look himself in the mirror and with no question call himself a man.”

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Corporal Stuart Langridge was an armoured-vehicle gunner in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy Sheila and Shaun Fynes
Corporal Stuart Langridge March 26, 1979 – March 15, 2008

Age: 28 years old

Hometown: Richmond, B.C.

Resided: Edmonton

Unit: Lord Strathcona’s Horse, CFB Edmonton

Corporal Langridge had a choice to make for his 12th birthday: Have a party or join the army cadets. He chose the cadets, where he got to camp, rock climb and learn about wilderness survival. “If he could, I think he would have lived at the campground,” his mother, Sheila Fynes, said. When he was 17, he joined the reserves, skipping his high-school graduation ceremony to attend boot camp. He had a curious mind and loved to challenge himself. There was no doubt that he would make the military his career. Cpl. Langridge was 23 and in the regular force when he deployed to Bosnia. He was overseas again in 2004, in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, where he was an armoured-vehicle gunner with a reconnaissance squadron.

After Afghanistan: Cpl. Langridge was engaged to be married, but all he wanted to do when he returned in February, 2005, was hang out with the guys he served with in Afghanistan, and the couple broke up. He was described as a “dedicated, loyal and motivated” soldier by his troop leader, according to a report by the military police complaints commission, which examined the Canadian Forces’ investigation of his death. In March, 2007, Cpl. Langridge complained about chest pains while on a leadership course for promotion. He was given medication for anxiety, but his health continued to spiral. Cpl. Langridge had trouble sleeping and concentrating. He was tormented by nightmares and would wake up covered in sweat. He began drinking heavily to cope with his symptoms. Near the end, he also turned to cocaine at times. More than one doctor believed he had post-traumatic stress disorder, but he was never officially diagnosed because of a lack of timely follow-up. The military sent him to an addictions program, but he checked himself out after six days. He told his mother he didn’t want to talk about his army experiences with a bunch of “designer kids.”

Last Post: His parents felt helpless. In less than a year, Cpl. Langridge attempted to take his life five times before he died. He tried to get better, checking himself into an Edmonton psychiatric hospital for 30 days. He had hoped to go straight into another rehab program from there, but was ordered to return to the base and live under restrictions that included a 9 p.m. curfew and sign-ins every two hours with the duty officer. He was also required to sleep in the “defaulters’ room,” which was usually reserved for members who had broken military rules, the commission report noted. His parents said their son felt humiliated. Cpl. Langridge hanged himself at the Edmonton base on March 15, 2008. He left a goodbye note for his family, but the military didn’t give it to them for 14 months. His parents believe the military and its health system failed their son. “They dropped the ball in a major way,” his mother said.

Remembrance: Cpl. Langridge was close with his two brothers and “would light up a room with an infectious laugh and giggle,” said his father, Shaun Fynes. He proudly furnished a downtown Edmonton condo after returning from Afghanistan and even framed a picture of his first barbecue. The rental apartment was the first home of his own away from a military base.

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Sergeant Paul Martin with his wife, Hélène Bilodeau, and their daughters at an event recognizing the help that he offered to a driver in a car accident. Photo courtesy Hélène Bilodeau
Sergeant Paul Martin June 27, 1974 – Sept. 8, 2011

Age: 37 years old

Hometown: Bathurst, N.B.

Resided: Geary, N.B.

Unit: 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Gagetown

The middle child among three boys, Sergeant Martin grew up in a blue-collar family; his father was a miner and his mother worked at a college cafeteria. He joined the reserves when he was 16 and transferred to the regular force four years later. Slim with dark hair, he met college student Hélène Bilodeau through a mutual friend after he returned from his first overseas mission to Croatia in 1993. Ms. Bilodeau was wary of army men, but Sgt. Martin won her over with his charm and sense of humour. He was solid, she said, a really good man. The couple married at a small Quebec City chapel in 1997 and began building a family. Sgt. Martin’s infantry work took him away for long stretches. He deployed three times to Bosnia between 1996 and 2002. The peacekeeping missions took a toll and left him unable to sleep at times, his wife said. In September, 2008, the father of two little girls, Élody and Cloé, left for another dangerous assignment, this time to war-ravaged Afghanistan. Ms. Bilodeau worried about her husband.

After Afghanistan: Sgt. Martin returned a different man in April, 2009. A bomb had exploded near him, causing temporary hearing loss and constant headaches. He was extremely nervous, startled by loud noises. He was also quick to lose his temper and his sleeping troubles worsened, Ms. Bilodeau said. She remembers finding him awake in the middle of the night, standing frozen in the basement. Two days after his return from Afghanistan, she urged him to get help. “You have to go to the emergency tomorrow because you’re not my husband any more,” she recalled telling him.

Last Post: Sgt. Martin heeded his wife’s pleas and asked for help. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, given medication and sent to counselling. His mental health improved, but the military decided to medically release him anyway. It was a devastating blow. “Sgt. Martin had spent his entire adult life in the infantry,” a military inquiry into his death stated. “Sgt. Martin was not emotionally ready to leave the CF [Canadian Forces],” the inquiry concluded. On Sept. 8, 2011, Sgt. Martin called 9-1-1 and told the operator he planned to kill himself because the army was the only way of life he knew. He hung up the phone and shot himself inside his beige pickup truck. Sgt. Martin left his shocked wife a handwritten goodbye note. In it, he expressed his love for her and their daughters and his anger with the military and Veterans Affairs. He had been battling Veterans Affairs for full recognition of his PTSD and disability benefits.

Remembrance: He enjoyed hunting and fishing and spending summers with his family on their boat. He was also a long-time volunteer firefighter. “He liked to help people,” his wife said. He and another firefighter were commended in 2007 for rescuing a driver whose car had hit a moose and a telephone pole before landing in a ditch.

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Retired Chief Warrant Officer Don Tupper wrote:

My name is Chief Warrant Officer (retired) Don Tupper and I want to say a few words about my friend Paul Martin. Although we both served in the same unit at one point, I want to tell you about the Paul as I knew him outside the military.

I first met Paul when he was a Van Doo corporal working at the infantry school in Gagetown, NB. I was a volunteer firefighter with the Oromocto Fire Department and had been a volunteer firefighter for many years. Paul, being a community minded person, decided to apply and join the department. Over the years we served as volunteers together, I came to learn that he was an intelligent, dedicated firefighter. He gave up thousands of hours and responded to hundreds of calls during his time in the fire service.

Paul was deeply respected by all in the department. He was one of the team who was ready at the drop of a hat to take extraordinary risk to help those in need. Paul had a sense of humour that endeared him to us all, his quick wit and confidence gave him an innate ability to put things in perspective.

Back when Paul first joined the fire department we were doing some live burn training. One day we were doing practice runs where we lit an old abandoned house on fire and train new guys like Paul by going in and putting the fire out.

It was Paul's first run and the burn crew had lit a fire in the second story bedroom just above the stair case. The fire was roaring pretty good and was pushing out of the bedroom and down over the stairs. It was hot with lots of flame. When we came around the corner at the bottom of the stairs, I yelled at Paul that we needed to get up the stairs and knock the fire down. I remember his eyes were as big as saucers and he yelled something back at me in French. I said what did you say and yells back "Let's do this" and away went up the stairs with flames leaping just over our heads. Paul knocked the fire down and from that day he was hooked.

I remember at one particularly stubborn fire, Paul and I were tasked to check the lower rooms for fire extension and had to tear out some ceilings. We were on fourth bottle of air and I was completely done in. Paul finds a chair tells me to sit down and takes the pike pole from my hands and continues to pull down the ceiling. It was not that Paul was any less exhausted than me, it was just that he seen a friend in need and he did what he always did, he helped you out.

Paul quickly established himself as an outstanding firefighter and leader as was promoted to volunteer lieutenant. The night before he passed we were preparing for the annual provincial fire service workshop on advanced burn evolution. Paul was going to take over incident command from me as I had to go back to Ottawa. He was excited but confident. That is the last conversation I had with my friend.

Paul was an extraordinary young man who loved his country as was shown by his exceptional military service, he loved his community as was shown by his dedication to the fire service, he deeply cared about his friends, but most of all he loved his wife and daughters.

Captain Linden Mason on a trip to Antibes, France, in 2010. Photo courtesy Jade Mason
Captain Linden Mason July 6, 1975 – Jan. 25, 2012

Age: 36 years old

Hometown: Ottawa

Resided: Oromocto, N.B.

Unit: Infantry School, Combat Training Centre, CFB Gagetown

Captain Mason was a protector. He watched over his younger sister, Jade Mason, after their parents split up, making her snacks after school and hanging out with her on weekends. He completed a bachelor of arts degree at Carleton University, majoring in mass communications, but he couldn’t find a job he liked. He had been a cadet in high school and decided to give the military a try. His sister didn’t think he was the army type. He was studious and quiet, liked computers and listening to music. But he told her that the military offered the challenge he was looking for – physically and mentally. He deployed to Afghanistan in May, 2010. Part of the Operational Mentor Liaison Team, his job was to train Afghan soldiers.

After Afghanistan: He had always put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed, his sister said. That pressure caused him to fall into depression at times throughout his life. A military inquiry into his death found that he sought medical help from the military in February, 2008, because “he was going to have a mental breakdown.” He was prescribed an antidepressant and stopped drinking for a while. His health improved, but Capt. Mason began drinking heavily again after he returned from Afghanistan in December, 2010. His sister said he seemed angry and disconnected and was plagued by nightmares. He kept telling her that he was bad, that he was the devil. But he wouldn’t explain. He just told her: “You don’t want to know what I did there or what it was like there. You hear about the deaths, but you don’t hear how many people are getting hurt or what it’s like, what we see.”

Last Post: Capt. Mason sought treatment for alcohol addiction, but never told military medical staff that he was struggling with other issues. The army was his life, and he wanted to keep advancing. His home was packed with books about military strategy, history and the morality of war. Capt. Mason killed himself on Jan. 25, 2012, while on a course at the Kingston base. That night, he had been caught with beer in a classroom and was reprimanded. At his funeral, his sister learned that one particular incident in Afghanistan haunted her brother. While on patrol, American soldiers came under attack a few kilometres away. Capt. Mason returned to base instead of rushing to the Americans, because his team was small, he lacked communication with the U.S. soldiers, and the Afghan troops in his group were fasting for Ramadan, “which meant their physical capabilities were diminished,” the inquiry report stated. The inquiry found that Capt. Mason told a military friend that battlefield decision was the first thing he thought of when he awoke.

Remembrance: He was a drummer, and played in bands in high school and university. He also loved to cook, searching for recipes online from a young age. He made his mother lasagna every year for her birthday. Running and travel were passions, too, his sister said, and he was generous. He and another soldier bought laptops for the Afghan soldiers they were mentoring, and gave money for school supplies.

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Pat Gilbert wrote:

He was my brother-in-law. His death ended life as I knew it.

I always had mad respect for him and all his buddies had mad respect for him, but they were all very different from him. Like Jade said, he probably shouldn't have been in the military. He had a fragile mind and war would have taken an extra toll on him.

The most important thing I want to convey is that I don't blame him. I despise this attitude that suicide is selfish. Mental illness isn't selfish. We don't want to be this way. We just are.

I blame him for nothing.

Master Corporal Matiru cleans his rifle on duty. Photo courtesy Corporal Robin Mugridge
Master Corporal Charles Matiru Aug. 2, 1980 – Jan. 15, 2013

Age: 32 years old

Hometown: North Vancouver

Resided: Kingston

Unit: Joint Task Force X, CFB Kingston

Master Corporal Matiru was 16 when he left Kenya to join his mother in North Vancouver. The family had lived in Nairobi, where MCpl. Matiru and his three siblings were born. His Kenyan father was the first man in his village to attend university. He studied forestry at the University of British Columbia, where he met Barbara, the woman he would marry. MCpl. Matiru was their youngest. Barbara Matiru was by her son’s side when he signed up for the army at a recruitment office in downtown Vancouver. He had wanted to be a police officer and thought military service would help him get into law enforcement. He had worked with the city’s ambassador program, which involved helping visitors, checking on the homeless, and keeping an eye out for crime. He liked making a difference, his mother said. MCpl. Matiru was sent to Kabul in August, 2004, slightly more than a year after joining the Forces. He deployed to Afghanistan three more times, in 2006, 2009 and 2010. During his last tour, the former infantry soldier worked in a secretive unit tasked with gathering intelligence from Afghans and identifying threats against Canadian troops.

After Afghanistan: In an article published on Remembrance Day in 2006, all seemed well with MCpl. Matiru. He had recently returned from his second Afghanistan assignment and told the Vancouver Sun he would go again. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve always been quite strong-minded, you could say. And for sure, that serves you well as a soldier.” The truth was he was already struggling with nightmares and hallucinations. With each deployment, his mental health worsened and he turned to alcohol to numb his pain and stress. He sought aid from the military’s medical system, but it wasn’t sufficient, his mother said. “He kept asking for help, but he wasn’t getting it. He was desperate,” Ms. Matiru recalled. The two exchanged poems during his tours. On June 8, 2009, while in Afghanistan, he wrote Dark Shadow. It begins, “Once again I see my shadow/He does not leave my side/Clinging to me at every turn/As before his taunts are unrelenting/Mother prays he lets me be.”

Last Post: Desperate for help, MCpl. Matiru checked himself into an alcohol-rehabilitation program in British Columbia in 2012, but his struggles continued. His partner fought to get him into a mental-health facility in Toronto that treated both post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions. He seemed better after his two-month stay, but his health soon deteriorated again. When he ended his life on Jan. 15, 2013, he knew he was going to be a new father soon. His mother believes he was frustrated that he was not getting better and terrified that his nightmares and hallucinations might cause him to inadvertently hurt his partner and child one day.

Remembrance: MCpl. Matiru’s son was born in June, 2013. His name is Pekay, after the boy in the novel The Power of One. Ms. Matiru sees a lot of her youngest son in Pekay. “He is quiet, steady, sincere, very loving. That was Charles.”

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Retired Corporal Sean McClintock with his dog, Keito. Photo courtesy Tom McClintock
Retired Corporal Sean McClintock Sept. 16, 1969 – Feb. 2, 2016

Age: 46 years old

Hometown: Fonthill, Ont.

Resided: Fonthill, Ont.

Unit: 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, CFB Edmonton

Corporal McClintock’s nickname was Klunk. His fellow soldiers tagged him with that after hearing how he drove a military vehicle so wildly that it tipped its trailer and spilled its cargo onto the road. But his driving skills improved dramatically through overseas tours in Kuwait, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan in January, 2002. He was among the first Canadian troops in Afghanistan. For his efforts, Cpl. McClintock was presented with several honours, including the South-West Asia Service medal and the Canadian Peacekeeping Service medal, much to his chagrin. He told his father, Tom McClintock, he didn’t understand why he was given medals when he was “just doing my job.”

After Afghanistan: After spending more than 20 years in the army, Cpl. McClintock was released from the Canadian Forces in 2011. He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder five years earlier. He turned his attention to less dangerous activities, such as scuba diving and collecting wartime memorabilia. His collection included gas masks, knives, electronic gear and several legally registered firearms. His father said his son had become an expert in guns and once made a functioning cannon from scrap pieces of material lying around a workshop.

Last Post: Mr. McClintock saw signs of PTSD in his son. He observed how little things, like a child crying, would send his son fleeing for quieter surroundings. For the McClintock family, his mental-health struggle triggered memories of his childhood cancer. Then 11 years old, he fought his way through treatment for a cancerous growth on his upper lip. “It’s a terrible situation to be in,” Mr. McClintock said of his son’s hospitalizations for cancer and PTSD. “You know your kid is suffering and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Cpl. McClintock ended his life on Feb. 2, 2016. He was found in his backyard, on a rural property near where he grew up in Fonthill, Ont.

Remembrance: Those who knew Klunk spoke of his gracious nature. He would help people if their car was stuck in a snowbank, or he’d mow a neighbour’s lawn if they were away on vacation. As one person put it in an online tribute, “Cpl. McClintock will always be remembered for his smile, his infectious spirit, and his allegiance to family, army brothers, canine family, and country … may you rest in peace with honour ... you have earned that right.”

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Sergeant Doug McLoughlin with his dog, Myka. Photo courtesy Tayna Buckshaw
Sergeant Doug McLoughlin Feb. 7, 1976 – March 3, 2013

Age: 37 years old

Hometown: Medicine Hat, Alta.

Resided: Edmonton

Unit: 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, CFB Edmonton

For the McLoughlin men, military service was a way of life. Sergeant McLoughlin’s father, grandfather and uncles all served in the British army or Irish Defence Forces. Still, it surprised Brendan McLoughlin when his only son joined the Canadian Forces a few years after high school. He hadn’t talked about enlisting before. But after working at a gas station and delivering pizzas, the army offered him good pay and a purpose, his sister, Tanya Buckshaw, said. Two years after entering the military, Sgt. McLoughlin deployed to Bosnia. In January, 2002, he was among the first Canadian battle troops sent to Afghanistan. Two of his friends were killed on that mission. He only completed six weeks of his tour because he badly sprained his ankle on a mountain patrol. Not finishing the deployment frustrated him. He was eager to go back, and got the chance in October, 2009.

After Afghanistan: His personality dramatically changed about a year and a half after returning from his second Afghanistan assignment. Once close with his family, he started picking fights with them. He told his dad and two sisters not to call any more, saying he didn’t want them in his life. It was months before he reconnected. His family wasn’t sure what was happening. “It went south and really quick,” Ms. Buckshaw recalled. Sgt. McLoughlin’s mother died while he was in Afghanistan for the second time. He flew back to Alberta for her funeral, and then returned to the front lines. “In hindsight, we shouldn’t have sent him back. He didn’t have time to grieve,” his father said. But Sgt. McLoughlin was second-in-command of a rifle section in Kandahar and wanted to return. He wanted to finish his tour this time.

Last Post: Tanya received a call from her brother about two weeks before his death. He was in tears. She had never heard her big brother cry before. It broke her heart. He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and after 15 years in the army, he was going to be medically released. He told his sister he was frustrated with Veterans Affairs over paperwork and his disability compensation. He was also anxious about how he was going to support himself after the military. He was supposed to become an occupational health and safety officer, but failed a test and couldn’t attend the course. Sgt. McLoughlin was found dead in his Edmonton townhouse on March 3, 2013, after a neighbour heard his dog, Myka, barking. He had overdosed on his medication.

Remembrance: Sgt. McLoughlin had a big heart and a warm smile, his family said. He loved playing video games, and taking Myka running with him. When he was a teenager, he played the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons. Before he died, he had bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and was planning a spring road trip.

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Corporal Jamie McMullin dressed up for Halloween with his sons, Jake (left) and Hunter. Photo courtesy Darrell and Brenda McMullin
Corporal Jamie McMullin June 9, 1982 – June 17, 2011

Age: 29 years old

Hometown: Glace Bay, N.S.

Resided: Oromocto, N.B.

Unit: 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Gagetown

Athletic with short, dark hair and a big smile, Corporal McMullin was the life of the party. He grew up around military bases. His father, Darrell, fixed battle tanks, and his mother, Brenda, was an administrative clerk at the Gagetown base in New Brunswick. Mr. McMullin had hoped his son would try a different career, but he wanted to be in the infantry, to jump out of helicopters and roll around in the mud. Cpl. McMullin deployed to Afghanistan in September, 2008, nearly four years after enlisting. It was the first overseas tour for the new husband and father. “We were very proud that he was going and serving, but we worried every day,” his mother said.

After Afghanistan: Cpl. McMullin lost 12 friends in Afghanistan. He had a dozen poppies tattooed on his right arm to remember them after he returned in the spring of 2009. The night of his homecoming, he woke his father up to talk. “He was just very depressed about the things he had done over there that he couldn’t get over,” his father said. Cpl. McMullin was already on sleeping pills, prescribed during his tour. As the weeks passed, he became withdrawn and easily startled by loud noises. He angered quickly and often seemed on edge, waiting for something to happen. He started drinking heavily, but the nightmares kept coming. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The illness was hard on his marriage. His wife was in the military, too.

Last Post: Two years after returning from Afghanistan, Cpl. McMullin tried to hang himself. The suicide attempt, in March, 2011, greatly alarmed Cpl. McMullin’s family, but his medical care didn’t appear to change greatly, his parents said. He was receiving counselling, but his parents believe he wasn’t regularly taking his medication, which included pills for depression, anxiety, anger and sleep. He also kept drinking heavily. The day that Cpl. McMullin took his life, he was given a medical designation that limited what he could do in the army. His father believes his son thought his military career was over and was worried about how he would provide for his wife and three sons. He hanged himself in the basement of his home on June 17, 2011. On a nearby table were notes from his therapy and letters from schoolchildren sent to him while he was in Afghanistan. The children told him that they were proud of him, that he was their hero. He felt anything but a hero. “Jamie didn’t come home. Jamie left his soul in Afghanistan,” his father said.

Remembrance: His favourite place was the family’s Cape Breton lakeside retreat, where he would fish, kayak and grill steak over a fire. His great-grandfather purchased the land and it is now home to six cabins, 14 campers and trailers, and six generations of the McMullin family. Cpl. McMullin loved sitting by the big fire pit, which some nights drew 70 family members out. “This was his getaway. It was Jamie’s escape,” his father said. “When you’re here, it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.”

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Warrant Officer Michael McNeil served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Warrant Officer Michael McNeil March 6, 1974 – Nov. 27, 2013

Age: 39 years old

Hometown: Windsor, N.S.

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa

A military man from start to finish, Warrant Officer McNeil had served in Bosnia and Kosovo before deploying to Afghanistan in February, 2009. He had already lost a cousin in the Afghanistan war (WO Frank Mellish and three other Canadian soldiers were killed in 2006), and the death left WO McNeil overcome with grief and guilt. He believed things would have been different had he been there to look out for his cousin.

After Afghanistan: When WO McNeil returned to Canada from Afghanistan in November, 2009, his uncle, Barry Mellish, wondered if he was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Mr. Mellish, himself a former RCMP officer who experienced PTSD on the job, noticed his nephew was on edge. He seemed to be consumed by guilt. “I just know that when he came back home from Afghanistan he was never the same,” said Mr. Mellish.

Last Post: Shock was felt across the country in November, 2013, when WO McNeil’s death was announced. He was one of four soldiers who had killed themselves in a two-week period. Mr. Mellish is critical of the way his nephew WO McNeil, a father of four, was treated by the Canadian Forces. Part of the problem, he said, is how soldiers are trained to suppress their emotions. “A lot of senior management in the Armed Forces don’t want to admit this but their soldiers see horrors over there every day,” said Mr. Mellish. “They know how it affects them, but they want the soldiers to push it all aside; man-up. There’s not enough [support].” After not hearing from him, some of WO McNeil’s friends went looking for him. He was found behind a building at CFB Petawawa. He had hanged himself.

Remembrance: Mr. Mellish said his nephew grew up embracing the East Coast outdoors in every way he could. “He would hunt and fish. He would mountain bike and hike. And in the winter, he was into snowboarding,” the uncle noted. “He was nice to everyone. He wasn’t a bully. He was the kind of young man you’d like to have as your son.”

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Corporal Tony Reed joined the military when he was 36. Photo courtesy Micheline and Phillip Reed
Corporal Tony Reed March 15, 1969 – Dec. 7, 2012

Age: 43 years old

Hometown: Ottawa

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa

Corporal Reed relished being outdoors. He grew up fishing for walleye and deer hunting with his father, Phillip Reed. He taught his two children how to camp and canoe. In the winter, they spent hours skating and playing hockey together on a backyard rink. Cpl. Reed tried other careers before joining the army. He once owned a bike shop and later worked as a software programmer for Nortel Networks until the tech company shut down. The job loss hit him hard. He grappled with depression as he struggled to find solid work to support his family. A friend suggested the military to him. At 36, Cpl. Reed was extremely fit after years of bodybuilding. He deployed to Afghanistan in September, 2008, almost two years after enlisting. He was a proud infantry soldier, his parents said, and felt honoured to wear the uniform.

After Afghanistan: He seemed all right to his parents upon his return in April, 2009. His marriage had ended several years earlier, but he had met another woman who was the love of his life. After a few months, his parents started noticing troubling signs. He wasn’t sleeping at night. He got angry quickly and started drinking more. He had trouble concentrating and couldn’t remember things. And he shied away from crowds. His mother, Micheline Reed, tried to get him to open up. But he kept telling her, “You don’t understand, Mom.” Then, one time, in frustration: “I cannot go to sleep, Mom, because as soon as I close my eyes that’s what I see, okay? People being blown up. Little kids with grenades. The blood. You can’t imagine the blood that I’ve seen over there.”

Last Post: Cpl. Reed sought medical help. He told his parents that the military doctor he first saw didn’t believe he had post-traumatic stress disorder. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD and given medication and counselling. But it’s not clear to his parents whether the Canadian Forces provided him with a consistent psychologist or how many therapy sessions he attended. Despite treatment, he seemed to be getting worse and his parents’ desperation grew. His mom even threatened to pull him out of Petawawa and bring him to Ottawa for care, but he told her: “Mom, you can’t do that. If you do that, it’ll make my life harder. It’ll affect my career.” Cpl. Reed attempted to take his life two times before he died. His second marriage was falling apart. Struggling financially, they had to sell their home. His parents said he was told he was going to be transferred to the Joint Personnel Support Unit on the day he hanged himself in his basement, on Dec. 7, 2012. The support unit for ill and wounded members is often a soldier’s last stop before release from the military.

Remembrance: He was good with his hands. Diagnosed with dyslexia in high school, he visualized his building projects instead relying on instructions. He built all the fencing and decking at his parents’ home. “Anything that you needed done, Tony would find a way of doing it,” his mother said.

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Glen and Annette Williamson wrote:

Tony was a wonderful individual.

We watched him grow up from childhood and he turned into a great young man, a very caring father, a very supportive son and nephew and a proud and patriotic soldier.

We will all miss his wonderful scratch meals, his laugh and his smile.

Miss you all the time.

Your loving uncle and aunt

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RM wrote:

It’s a hot wet day in late July of 2008. I had been married a few weeks and I was in my last days before flying out to Kandahar, Afghanistan. I had to do my final 9mm range shooting and grenade throw just to confirm my battle readiness.

Being Air Force, as hard as a week-old marshmallow and having everything to prove to these Royal Canadian Regiment types, I had a disastrous range in the morning and had nothing but obscenities screamed at me. Overwhelmed, I sat down with a ration pack intent on having a quiet moment and lunch. A hulk of man approached, a fellow corporal, who sat beside me. With the patience of a priest, he explained proper grip and breathing and how my sight picture should look. We reviewed reloads and what finger does what and then with a slap on the back he encouraged me not to f***-up and then he carried on. My thanks was rebuffed with “I'm happy to help!”

Using my new skills, I nailed the 9mm test and managed not to kill anyone on the grenade throw. It began to pour and with a sinking feeling I realized I had left all of my kit unattended in the open. Oh, I forgot to mention we were going to ruck it back (as in hike) the 15 or so kilometres back to the unit's lines. Expecting to find my kit in a puddle, I was shocked to see my new buddy and range coach had packed it up and placed it in a dry truck.

Thanking him again and again hearing “no problem,” we set off. Along the way, I slowed to adjust my rucksack and he doubled back to give me pointers and motivation in this death march. Up to that point I'd had little field training. All that soldiering was a bit daunting. Anyway, we made it back and carried on.

I saw him weeks later at Kandahar Airfield, before he went out to some isolated forward operating base in Kandahar province. We chatted and told each other to take care. I thanked him again for his help, and he chuckled and said “Hey man, it's what we’ve got to do. We need to look after one another.” We bumped into each other at the mess hall before Christmas and we quickly traded stories on camp life. He asked if I'd been practicing my pistol marksmanship, and I asked him he'd seen any scorpions. We told each other to take care. We shook hands and, unfortunately, I never saw him again for the remainder of the 5 months.

That was Cpl. Tony Reed and this evening I learned that he had been struggling since his return. He was a good guy, he seemed to look out for his wingers and I feel sick that nobody was there when he needed help.

On the 11th, I’m going to remember him and all the other brave Canadians who have passed away in service of our nation, whether at home or abroad.

Captain Patrick Rushowick with his dad, Geoff, and mom, Bonnie. He graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston. Photo courtesy Geoff and Bonnie Rushowick
Captain Patrick Rushowick Nov. 17, 1984 – June 11, 2013

Age: 28 years old

Hometown: Yorkton, Sask.

Resided: Kingston

Unit: Area Support Unit, CFB Kingston

When Captain Rushowick was 14, he joined the army cadets in the hope of making a career in the military. He ended up graduating from Kingston’s Royal Military College officer’s training program in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree. In 2009, he became the assisting officer to a family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan. As a combat engineer he was deployed to Haiti to help rebuild the country after it had been ravaged by an earthquake. Not long after he returned to Canada, in November 2010, he was sent to Afghanistan.

After Afghanistan: Prior to his deployment to Afghanistan there was news a friend had killed himself. It was a grim start to Capt. Rushowick’s tour of duty. A year later, when he returned to testify at the Board of Inquiry into the death, his mother, Bonnie, could sense the changes in her son. “He spoke of his friend from time to time,” she said. “He always disagreed with what his friend did. That is why it was even more shocking to us that he took his life.” Living in the moment-to-moment intensity of a war zone took more out of Capt. Rushowick than he expected. Like so many of his fellow soldiers, he turned inward, choosing not to tell his family of the friends lost overseas and the enemies killed.

Last Post: In Afghanistan, Capt. Rushowick witnessed and participated in a number of ramp ceremonies when a soldier’s body is returned to Trenton, Ont., to grieving families. Sometimes he watched multiple bodies return. When Capt. Rushowick himself returned, he married – but within a year his marriage was on shaky ground. On June 11, 2013, Capt. Rushowick left a note with a friend across the street to “please look after Zeus,” his dog. Then he drove back to CFB Kingston to the senior officer’s mess, where colleagues saw him and waved. Capt. Rushowick pulled out a gun and shot himself in full view of a stunned mess hall.

Remembrance: Family and friends gathered to celebrate Capt. Rushowick’s love for his country and for his random acts of kindness, from helping dig out cars swallowed by snowbanks to mowing the neighbour’s lawn while they were gone on vacation. His death left his mother wondering if his suicide could have been prevented. “If somebody could have grabbed him, and if he’d gone and seen a counsellor right away – would the outcome have been any different?” asked Ms. Rushowick. “It’s a hard thing to be left with.” Fortunately, she has memories of her son’s pre-Afghanistan self; the 6-foot-6 guy with the extra-tall sense of humour who would laugh the loudest, even if the jokes were on him.

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Drew Richardson wrote:

I first met Pat in 2003 when he lived just a few doors down from me in the barracks at Royal Military College Saint Jean. He was a great guy to hang around with, and was one of the most dedicated and loyal friends I've ever known. I saw him just after I arrived in Kandahar in 2011 just as his tour was ending, and he seemed like a shadow of the man I knew. I heard about his completed suicide just before I went to Gagetown in the summer of 2013 for an advanced training course, and it shook me to my core, to the point where I could no longer answer why I was continuing to fight through the roadblocks that so often face those who have openly sought mental health help. I medially withdrew from the course, and have since been medically released because of my diagnosis with PTSD. Pat was a true friend, and I thank you so much for finally sharing his story.

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Halina Dinner wrote:

Patrick and my son, Tom Dinner, met at Royal Military College and became the best of friends. He would often come and visit our family in Toronto – with or without Tom. That is how comfortable he was with us. He was like another son and would call me “mom”. He was such an amazing young man – full of life, humour, hugs and many, many stories.

He absolutely was the guy who was always there to help, without question, ever!

He took his life 2 weeks before my granddaughter, Chloe’s, baptism. He was to be her godfather. His picture holding her is in the montage in the article. He was so looking forward to this occasion and was very excited about being her godfather. He was looking forward to so many things so his sudden passing by his own hand did not make any sense to me.

He absolutely was full of life. I often think if there was anything I could have done to stop this. My son does. My daughter does. All who know him do.

I saw the Facebook message he posted just prior to his passing which concerned me. I called him immediately, but found out later that day that it was already too late by that time.

All who know and love him often think of him and speak of him. He lives on in all of us – he made that kind of an impact.

I miss his hugs, his visits, his smile and most of all him.

Thank you for sharing with your readership the story of Patrick Rushowick. He is not just a statistic but a wonderful young man gone far too soon.

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Gloria Marrin-Chupa wrote:

I remember Patrick standing tall when they called his name at a dinner for the Portraits of Honour National Tour in Yorkton. It was a mural dedicated to soldiers who had died in combat.

I knew his family because his mom Bonnie was a public health nurse, who worked with my sister. Bonnie was also a public health nurse who immunized and looked after my babies. I worked with her sister and brother-in-law in the funeral industry.

I remember the shock everyone felt when Patrick passed. Yorkton is a small town and one way or another we all knew the family.

RIP Patrick. May your nightmares be over. Thank you for your service.

Corporal Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez became a proud father in August, 2013. Photo courtesy Felicita Martinez
Corporal Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez March 9, 1985 – Jan. 8, 2014

Age: 28 years old

Hometown: Toronto

Resided: Kingston

Unit: Royal Regiment of Canada, Fort York Armoury, Toronto

Corporal Sanhueza-Martinez liked order. His room was never messy, even as a teenager. His siblings said he found comfort in discipline and excelled in karate in high school. The second eldest of four children, he was the jokester in the family and often teased his Chilean parents about their accents. He studied policing in college and joined the reserves, believing army experience would help him become a police officer. Military life suited his meticulous nature and he rose to the rank of master corporal. In May, 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan and was posted to forward operating base Sperwan Ghar, where his main job was surveillance. He kept watch for insurgents and threats via a camera in a tethered balloon.

After Afghanistan: He returned home in December, 2010, frustrated and embarrassed. He had been demoted to private about midway through his tour. It happened after his section leader accidentally fired a pistol inside the surveillance container. He asked then-Master Corporal Sanhueza-Martinez to keep quiet about the incident. But word got out. Both men faced military charges and fines, according to a military inquiry report on the reservist’s death. The section leader was sent home, while the now-Private Sanhueza-Martinez was allowed to complete his tour. The demotion meant a significant pay cut and loss in status. “They stripped him naked,” said his brother, Emilio Sanhueza-Martinez. “It was a big hit. It’s your family telling you that you’re nothing now.”

Last Post: He kept telling his family he was fine, but he wasn’t. He was promoted to corporal in August, 2011, but the reservist couldn’t get his higher rank restored. He was frustrated by a lack of full-time job opportunities in the military as federal cutbacks were under way, the inquiry report said. He started drinking more and having run-ins with the law. He rolled a military pickup truck on the way to a training centre in Meaford, Ont., and was charged with careless driving. A few months later, in December, 2011, he was arrested for driving drunk and later convicted in court. “When I look back, he came back all screwed up,” said his sister, Mayra Sanhueza-Martinez. In August, 2013, her brother became a proud new father. But his relationship with his partner was rocky, and he was struggling financially. His brother believes he was also coping with the effects of withdrawing from steroids. On Jan. 8, 2014, Cpl. Sanhueza-Martinez hanged himself in his Kingston home. He was alone. Near him, police found a bottle of a natural herb used to treat depression. He’d never sought professional medical help for his mental-health issues.

Remembrance: “He always hugged me a lot,” his mother, Felicita Martinez, said, tears filling her eyes. “And he would say, ‘Mom, do you love me?’” Of course, she always replied.

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Corporal Brandon Shepherd (right) with his sister, Alisha, and brother, Shayler. Photo courtesy Vincent Shepherd
Corporal Brandon Shepherd April 21, 1988 – Sept. 4, 2011

Age: 23 years old

Hometown: Grand Manan, N.B.

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: Royal Canadian Dragoons, CFB Petawawa

Corporal Shepherd wanted to join the Canadian Forces so badly that he would leave Grand Manan Community School early, so he could take the 90-minute ferry ride to Blacks Harbour, N.B., then drive for an hour to reach Saint John to take his reserve training. Some nights, he would stay at his aunt’s place in Saint John. More often, he would drive back to the ferry terminal and sleep in his vehicle until he arrived in Grand Manan. He did this once a week, plus weekends, for two years. “It was a big commitment,” said his father, Vincent Shepherd, a ferry boat captain.

After Afghanistan: It took just one tour of duty in Afghanistan to convince Cpl. Shepherd that military life was not what he wanted after all. There were sights and sounds that tore at his emotions. Mr. Shepherd said his son had gone from being a recipient of a service-excellence award to someone who had lost his enthusiasm for the job. A military inquiry looked into his death at CFB Petawawa and noted that Cpl. Shepherd was a “quiet, determined and hardworking soldier,” but he was frustrated that a request to transfer to a base closer to his family appeared stalled. His father believes his son was also suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. For one thing, he couldn’t stand being in large crowds. His close friends told the inquiry that he was anxious and depressed.

Last Post: The day before he died, Cpl. Shepherd asked his military buddies if a .30-06 was enough of a bullet for a suicide mission. He and his friends had joked about taking themselves out, grim gags were a way to combat the stress. On the day he died, Cpl. Shepherd began writing a farewell note at the on-base apartment he shared with two of his buddies. After a couple of tries, he settled on one that said this was not the fault of his mother or father. The Military Police found him by a storage locker outside the Petawawa base on Sept. 4, 2011. He had used a .30-06 bullet.

Remembrance: Cpl. Shepherd had been training for an upcoming Iron Man competition and he was excited about his chances since he trained on the Petawawa course to be used for the race. He was also a committed volunteer with the town’s firefighting unit, a responsibility he’d first taken before going into the military fulltime.

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Corporal Scott Smith with his youngest son, Ian, who was born just before Cpl. Smith departed for Afghanistan in March, 2012. Photo courtesy Smith family
Corporal Scott Smith Feb. 7, 1983 – Dec. 10, 2014

Age: 31 years old

Hometown: Victoria

Resided: Rusagonis, N.B.

Unit: 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Gagetown

Before joining the army, Corporal Smith worked with troubled teens at a wilderness boot camp on Vancouver Island. Witty and outgoing, he was a positive force in their lives. He motivated them and commanded respect. The counselling job, though, didn’t pay very well and he began to consider other careers. He was newly married when he told his wife, Leah, that he’d decided to join the army. She was surprised, and remembers telling him: “As long as you’re not front-line Afghanistan, I’m okay.” His adoptive parents, Connie and Bob Smith, were worried about the military’s drinking culture. Cpl. Smith had experienced bouts of depression because of all the losses in his life, and drank heavily at times. Along with his biological mother’s death, Cpl. Smith lost his grandmother to cancer and an uncle to suicide. But Cpl. Smith was determined to excel in the army, and he did. “Scott’s work ethic was impeccable,” Connie Smith said. He departed for Kabul in March, 2012, not long after his second son was born. Cpl. Smith was part of a contingent of Canadian troops training Afghan security forces.

After Afghanistan: Leah kept watch over her husband after he returned from Afghanistan. While he was having some trouble adjusting to day-to-day family life, he seemed to eventually adapt. The first troubling sign emerged in October, 2013, after he’d been home for nearly a year. The Smiths were watching a movie at home when, about midway through, Cpl. Smith zoned out and the colour drained from his face. He started pacing and sweating. He was like this for two to three hours. Afterward, he tried to assure his wife he was fine, but more breakdowns followed and he began distancing himself from his family. When his parents came for a visit the following fall, he refused to go to a pumpkin patch with them and his young boys, Casey and Ian. He was withdrawn, his mother said. She later learned he was also having hallucinations.

Last Post: Cpl. Smith’s mother and wife tried to persuade him to seek treatment, but he was worried asking for help would scuttle his military ambitions. He was preparing for a leadership course and was up for a promotion. “He felt that he would lose face with the military, that he wouldn’t be seen as being strong and what the military wanted as a leader,” his mother said. He came home intoxicated from a military Christmas party on Dec. 10, 2014. Leah was worried about their boys and left in frustration. Cpl. Smith had always spoken out against suicide, but that night, he ended his own life.

Remembrance: Cpl. Smith bonded immediately with his adoptive parents. He was 11 when he came into their lives. The couple had been on the adoption list for a decade and were about to give up. He was a blessing, his mother said. “Scott called us mom and dad from the get-go,” she recalled. “It was a good fit for all of us.”

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Retired Cpl. Chris Bremner wrote:

I met Smitty in 2009 when I went for basic training in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. We were part of the same platoon and spent the 3 months together learning the ins and outs of being in the Canadian Forces. We never saw eye to eye but I always respected him. He was a strong character someone you would never think that this kind of tragedy would happen too. You could tell he was a leader not a follower which was probably why we had our differences. Everyone wants to be a king and not a knight.

We later both chose to be stationed in Gagetown, NB, with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment. We were in different companies and bumped into each other once in a while.

The last time I saw him was our RG-31 mine-resistant vehicle driving course before our tour in Afghanistan. I remember hearing about his passing and after losing my family going through the same things I decided to get help. I never ever thought it could happen to him. I knew him as a mentally strong person but wish I could have helped. I never went to see help until I left the military thinking the same thing as him: I did not want to show weakness, I did not wanting to ruin my career.

RIP Smitty

Corporal Justin Stark played drums and guitar and was in a heavy-metal band. Photo courtesy Stark family
Corporal Justin Stark June 23, 1989 – Oct. 29, 2011

Age: 22 years old

Hometown: Hamilton

Resided: Selkirk, Ont.

Unit: Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Hamilton

Corporal Stark was built like an Olympic swimmer. More than six feet tall, he towered over his parents, brother and sister. He was the middle child in a middle-class family. He played basketball in high school and was in a heavy-metal band, skilled at drums and guitar. He was also a reservist, joining at 16. Cpl. Stark was excited about being picked to go to Afghanistan. Attached to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, he lived and worked alongside the regular force troops in Petawawa, Ont., for a year before deploying as a rifleman to Kandahar in May, 2010. His duties included using a metal detector to check the ground for explosives and searching buildings for threats and bodies. He kept a journal for the first part of his tour. His initial entry was in June. He wrote that he didn’t know if he would make it to his leave in July, because “you just never know when one step could be your last.”

After Afghanistan: His parents noticed significant changes in his personality after he returned in December, 2010. He was irritable and hard to talk to. He would stay up all night and sleep during the day. “He became very quiet. He’d spend a lot of time in his room,” his mother, Denise Stark, recalled. “He didn’t want to share meals with us, or when he did, he’d eat and not say anything at the table. We were walking on eggshells.” His parents assumed these changes were a normal part of readjusting to life after Afghanistan. But Cpl. Stark was also feeling isolated. Because he was a reservist, he was not in regular contact with the full-time troops he served with overseas – those who would understand what he went through and who could help him work through the images and experiences encountered together. Cpl. Stark desperately wanted to be in the regular force, but at the time there were limited job opportunities as combat operations were winding down and federal cutbacks had begun. “It hit him hard,” his father, Wayne Stark, said. Frustrated, his son remained in the reserves and became a personal trainer at a fitness club.

Last Post: On Oct. 28, 2011, Cpl. Stark left home for a weekend training exercise at the Hamilton armoury. When he didn’t show up for breakfast the next morning, his fellow soldiers went to look for him. They found him in the building. He had killed himself while they slept. His parents believe their son had post-traumatic stress disorder, but he never reached out for medical help.

Remembrance: When the family lived by Lake Erie, Cpl. Stark used to go for eight-kilometre runs in his military gear and combat boots, even on the hottest days. He added weights to his vest to intensify his training. “His time was incredibly fast,” his father said. The family often went camping together, making several trips to Algonquin Provincial Park.

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Corporal John Unrau had a reputation for staying calm under fire.
Corporal John Unrau Aug. 27, 1972 – July 1, 2015

Age: 42 years old

Hometown: Sudbury

Resided: Edmonton

Unit: Lord Strathcona’s Horse, CFB Edmonton

Like so many of his peers, Corporal Unrau grew up wanting to be part of the Canadian military. He joined the reserves when he was 16 and later transferred into the regular force. He was an armoured crewman with a reputation for staying calm under fire. He deployed to Afghanistan in August, 2004.

After Afghanistan: Cpl. Unrau routinely called his mom, Dorothy Unrau, but never said much about the war in Afghanistan. He said even less when he returned for visits to his Northern Ontario hometown. There were times when he slept in the basement of his mother’s home, in the same room where he stored his guns. Some nights, Ms. Unrau was awakened by her son screaming in his sleep. Cpl. Unrau had three surgeries on an ankle that he hurt in a training exercise. He was also struggling with mental-health issues and started pulling away from people. His brothers suspected he had post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last Post: Dan Unrau noticed his brother had become bitter toward the Canadian Forces. Worsening matters was the possibility that his damaged ankle required amputation. It was all too much for Cpl. Unrau, who shot and killed himself on a rural property outside Edmonton on Canada Day in 2015. “That wasn’t by chance,” said Mr. Unrau. “He was making a statement.” His suicide shocked his family because he had counselled others against suicide. “It was all so ironic,” said his older brother Eddy Unrau. “I’ve had guys tell me that if it wasn’t for Johnny they would have killed themselves. He saved them.”

Remembrance: Dan and Eddy, and Cpl. Unrau’s many friends, have never missed a chance to celebrate his memory. The men made special Toronto Maple Leafs’ jerseys with the No. 72, for the year Cpl. Unrau was born, and wore them to a Leafs game in Toronto. Don Cherry paid tribute to Cpl. Unrau and his friends during Coach’s Corner. And this past August, friends and family gathered for a birthday bash in a barn outside of Sudbury. An estimated 70 people came to what was billed as Johnny Palooza. There are plans to stage another palooza next summer.

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Amber Bowman wrote:

Every year Johnny had his picture taken with Santa to give it to his mom.

Corporal Bernie Walton with his daughter, Emma. Photo courtesy Walton family
Corporal Bernie Walton Oct. 2, 1964 – Oct. 10, 2007

Age: 43 years old

Hometown: Stellarton, N.S.

Resided: Trenton, Ont.

Unit: 8 Air Maintenance Squadron, CFB Trenton

Corporal Walton grew up in a military family, near the Gagetown base in New Brunswick. His dad was in the infantry and had deployed to Cyprus. The youngest of five children, Cpl. Walton followed a different path than his father for a while. He worked as a mechanic before deciding to pursue a career in the air force when he was nearly 40. Married with a two young daughters, he was the oldest recruit in his group, his sister, Rosemarie Walton, recalled. But he was as physically fit as the 20 year olds, and he graduated at the top of his class. An avionics-systems technician in the air force, Cpl. Walton was responsible for maintaining aircraft electronics. Before deploying on the Afghanistan mission in 2006, he was commended for noticing a key part was missing on a Hercules airplane. He was a private then. Others with more experience had missed the problem. “Private Walton’s actions undoubtedly averted further aircraft damage and potentially the catastrophic loss of a CC-130 Hercules, aircrew lives and the lives of ground troops,” a military newsletter trumpeted.

After Afghanistan: Cpl. Walton deployed three times on the Afghanistan mission between August, 2006 and May, 2007. He looked really thin when his sister saw him in July, 2007, three months before his death. She didn’t know it then, but he was taking a lot of medication for his mental health and had checked himself into a hospital for three days. His marriage was also falling apart. “He was trying to be strong,” his sister said.

Last Post: Cpl. Walton and his wife were separated when he ended his life at home on Oct. 10, 2007. In an e-mail after his death, a military officer noted: “There will not be a dry eye in Camp [Mirage], as Bernie was very highly regarded by all.” Camp Mirage was a Canadian Forces logistics facility in Dubai, set up to support the Afghanistan mission.

Remembrance: Only a year apart, Cpl. Walton and his sister, Rosemarie, hung out together growing up. They were in the same rock band, and once played for a crowd of 3,000 at a music festival in Nova Scotia. He was caring and gave 100 per cent to everything he took on, she said. He was close with all his siblings, and was a Big Brother and a foster parent. He and his youngest daughter, Emma, would fish together and spent hours singing karaoke on a machine he bought for their home.

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Master Corporal Tyson Washburn was a cook in the military.
Master Corporal Tyson Washburn April 3, 1976 – March 15, 2014

Age: 37 years old

Hometown: Saint John

Resided: Pembroke, Ont.

Unit: 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa

Master Corporal Washburn was extremely active as a child thanks to his three brothers, Travis, Tyler and Trent, who played football and basketball all the time until Tyson chose a different pathway and joined the Armed Forces. He signed up for military duty in 2006, opting to put his culinary skills to the test. “He wanted to go to a culinary college but didn’t have the money,” said the father, David Washburn. “He liked to cook for us at Christmas.” It was the Army that afforded MCpl. Washburn his best chance at getting an education, cooking-wise. He deployed to Afghanistan in July, 2010 but during his tour, he did more than scramble eggs. He went on duty patrol, which meant he and other soldiers ventured outside the base camp, fully armed, to ensure all was safe. His father doesn’t think his son had the proper training to undertake patrols in a war zone.

After Afghanistan: Mr. Washburn said his son was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Afghanistan. It may have had something to do with MCpl. Washburn’s work conditions. He told his dad that the window in his kitchen had an opening that never closed. It made a great spot for shooting at the enemy, except that the enemy could also get a shot inside.

Last Post: In Pembroke, on his final day, MCpl. Washburn got a haircut and called his son Brandon, just to talk. Then MCpl. Washburn called the police to tell them he was going to kill himself. The police arrived in time to hear a gunshot on March 15, 2014.

Remembrance: A co-worker wrote online that MCpl. Washburn had a calm personality and an “infectious smile.” Another who worked with him at the Canadian Forces remote outpost in Alert, Nunavut, said: “He was one of the nicest guys I’ve had the chance to know. He will certainly be missed tremendously.”

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Private Thomas Welch served in Afghanistan from August, 2003, to February, 2004. Photo courtesy Anita Cenerini
Private Thomas Welch Oct. 25, 1981 – May 8, 2004

Age: 22 years old

Hometown: Manitouwadge, Ont.

Resided: Petawawa, Ont.

Unit: 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa

Private Welch was sitting in the living room with his mother and baby brother when the smouldering World Trade Center towers appeared on their television screen. He turned to his horrified mother and said: “I’m going to have to go to war, mom.” Anita Cenerini broke into tears and pleaded with her son to pull out of the army. He’d only signed up the month before, believing military service would help him become a police officer. “They need me now more than ever, mom,” he told her, placing his arm around her. Pte. Welch was a sensitive soul with a big heart. He’d been a cub scout and a scout leader, and enjoyed canoeing, camping, skiing and fishing. He left for Kabul in August, 2003, and was among the first Canadian battle troops dispatched to Afghanistan.

After Afghanistan: He was different during his two-week leave that October. Not the type to raise his voice, he snapped at his mother and didn’t want to spend much time with his close-knit family. He was sullen. Back in Afghanistan for Christmas, he told his family he didn’t want any presents. “I could feel him slipping away from us already,” his mother recalled. After his tour ended in February, 2004, he seemed even worse. He was agitated, had trouble sleeping and was haunted by nightmares. He began drinking heavily. His mom suspected he had post-traumatic stress disorder and begged him to get help, but he told her he couldn’t. He believed doing so would affect his career. “He was broken. His soul was broken,” his mother said.

Last Post: Ms. Cenerini’s husband, Grant Palmer, had planned a surprise for Mother’s Day. Living in Winnipeg, the couple drove with their youngest son, Jacob, to Thunder Bay for the weekend. Pte. Welch and his sister, Michelle, were going to meet them there. The family was waiting by the baggage carousel at the Thunder Bay airport for Pte. Welch to arrive when they were called to the WestJet counter and taken to the airport chapel. Inside, they met with military officers, who told them Pte. Welch had taken his life at the Petawawa base. On May 8, 2004, their world collapsed. The young infantry soldier was the first Canadian Forces member to die by suicide after serving in Afghanistan, The Globe and Mail’s investigation uncovered.

Remembrance: When he was 9 years old, Pte. Welch filled out a hardcover book called, All about me. His writing fills every page. He said he wanted to be a police officer because “they help people.” He enjoyed playing kickball, hide and seek, soccer and hockey. He said his friends liked him because he was “very funny.” His favourite season was fall. And he liked to sing O Canada and listen to MC Hammer. “He had a very sensitive heart. A very giving heart. A very loving heart,” his mother said.

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Corporal Joshua Wood worked at a book warehouse before joining the reserves. Photo courtesy Bruce Wood
Corporal Joshua Wood Jan. 13, 1981 – May 20, 2011

Age: 30 years old

Hometown: Newmarket, Ont.

Resided: Newmarket, Ont.

Unit: 32 Service Battalion, Toronto

The youngest of three children, Cpl. Wood was thoughtful and methodical from an early age. As a kid, he would pack his toys carefully away, keep his room neat and save his allowance, his father, Bruce Wood, recalled. “Josh would come with me everywhere. With Josh, there was no drama,” his father said. After high school, his son got a job at a book warehouse and joined the reserves a few years later. One of his grandfathers had been in the army, as had his great-uncles. Mr. Wood said his son was a dedicated soldier: “The military seemed to make him happy.” A supply technician, he deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2010. He received a glowing performance review for his work at forward operating base Masum Ghar. “He is a dynamic leader whose work ethic and willingness to help others is beyond reproach,” a commander wrote in April, 2009. He highly recommended Cpl. Wood for promotion.

After Afghanistan: He seemed jittery after his first overseas tour, dropping quickly to the ground once when he was out with his mother, Susan Wood. He was taking cover, but it was only a car that had backfired. Otherwise his parents, who both worked in financial services, didn’t notice significant changes in their son. But as his second Afghanistan assignment approached, Cpl. Wood became consumed with the idea of settling down and having a family. It had become an obsession, which concerned his parents, because it seemed out of character. Cpl. Wood married in the fall of 2010, during his two-week leave from Afghanistan. He’d met his wife about six months before he deployed. Their relationship turned tumultuous quickly, melting down a few months after they wed. Cpl. Wood moved back with his parents and spoke with a divorce lawyer. He was also seeing a counsellor.

Last Post: Cpl. Wood was optimistic that he would be accepted into the regular force, but he worried that divorce proceedings might delay the transfer. He was stressed about the marriage breakdown and what it would cost him financially, but he didn’t seem suicidal. He took his life on a Friday afternoon in May, 2011, placing himself in front of a commuter GO Train. “It was a horrible loss, and there is horrible sadness,” said Mr. Wood, who recently lost his wife of 42 years after a car accident. “When I think of my son Joshua, all I feel is love.”

Remembrance: Cpl. Wood was a runner, clocking about eight kilometres a day. He took care of his health and preferred chocolate over alcohol. On a Las Vegas trip with other soldiers training for Afghanistan, he drifted away from the partying group. They found him in M&M’s World, a 28,000-square-foot, four-level chocolate paradise.

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Rob Boucher wrote:

Thank you for your work tracking down the Afghan veterans who committed suicide. I feel compelled to write you about Joshua. I served with him in Masum Ghar, Afghanistan, in 2008-09. Almost daily as we went out and did our work Josh would be the go-to guy to get whatever we needed. I don't think he slept.

I personally admired him for his work ethic. He inspired confidence knowing if we needed anything he could get it. We were a small engineer unit doing some unorthodox work out in the Panjwaii district and his support was stellar. We passed up our chain of command a recommendation he be recognized for his outstanding work. Gladly, he was!

I can understand where Josh was, believe me. My hope is that more of us get the help we need. It is available. If any vet reads this and needs help, do it. At least reach out to other brothers-in-arms, take the first step, we'll help.

To Josh's family please know that he was respected and admired and did make a difference. Please accept my condolences on behalf of CMT 1 Engineers.

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