Sunday, November 8, 2015

Military memorial commemorates Canada’s ‘soldiers of suicide’

Military memorial commemorates Canada’s ‘soldiers of suicide’
The Globe and Mail
RENATA D’ALIESIO
Published Friday, Nov. 06, 2015

At the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa, amid a sea of tombstones honouring those who served in peacetime and in war, a single red oak tree and a simple bronze plaque commemorate the nation’s hidden casualties.

This humble memorial is, as inscribed, “dedicated to the memory of soldiers of suicide.” A small grassroots group erected it two years ago, as Canada was nearing the end of its involvement in the 13-year NATO-led Afghanistan war.

The group, named Soldiers of Suicide and founded by Quebec resident Lise Charron, was born out of the anguish of an Ontario mother whose young son took his life after serving in Afghanistan.

“The mother told me she was afraid we will forget her son,” recalls Ms. Charron, who had been posting photos online of Canadian soldiers killed in theatre as a way to recognize their sacrifices. Soon, she and a small band of others turned their attention to remembering the unremembered.

“It’s a mentality of our society to not talk about suicide,” Ms. Charron says. “But they served our country with passion. They served our country as any other soldiers, so why do we keep that a secret?
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The Unremembered
The Globe and Mail
RENATA D’ALIESIO
OROMOCTO, N.B.
Nov. 03, 2015
“I knew that the military was part of our life till the end. The end was a lot sooner than we expected.”
Leah Smith
158 Canadian soldiers died in the Afghanistan mission. But the losses did not end there. A Globe and Mail investigation reveals a disturbing number the military has kept secret: that at least 54 soldiers and vets killed themselves after they returned from war
The Canadian army desperately needed men like Scott Smith.

A hard-nosed counsellor who worked with troubled teens in the Vancouver Island wilderness, he looked the part of a soldier. He was tall and muscular, with a gruff appearance that concealed his fun-loving side.

When he enlisted in 2009, Canada was ensnared in an arduous combat mission in the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar. Confronted with a defiant Taliban armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs, Canadian soldiers were dying at a rate not seen since the Korean War.

Corporal Smith went to the battle-scarred country wanting to make a difference, supporting the training and fighting of Afghan security forces during a nine-month tour.

He came back a frayed man, his mind ravaged by the eternal replay of war. He started drinking more and spending less time with his wife and two young boys. Large crowds spooked him. Even an outing to a pumpkin patch he found unnerving.

Last December, two years after returning from Afghanistan, Cpl. Smith, who had counselled others against suicide, ended his own life after a military Christmas party. He was 31 years old.
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