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Senator Pamela Wallin Addresses Senate Re: Support For Soldiers Returning from Afghanistan

Senator Pamela Wallin Statement: Support for Soldiers Returning from Afghanistan

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, when you see the strength and the spirit of our ill or injured soldiers returning from Afghanistan, you know that they deserve our gratitude and respect, but these young men and women also need our support to ready themselves for re-entry into the civilian world. Many will have to do so with life-altering injuries.

Petawawa, one of three major troop deployment bases in Canada, is also home to one of the eight new one-stop service points for our returning soldiers and their families. Support centres are up and running in Halifax, Vancouver, Edmonton, Shilo, Toronto, Valcartier and Gagetown as well as Petawawa. These units are making a difference for soldiers, several of whom I had the opportunity to meet.

There was a young medic who was attached to the famous Charlie Company during Operation Medusa, a major Canadian-led assault against the Taliban in 2006. Several fellow soldiers were felled and the young medic was left with a shoulder full of shrapnel. He survived and was treated for injuries.

Once home in Canada, the real damage began to take hold. Disks in his spine had been damaged by the rocket blast. Then the nightmares began and he turned to alcohol to try to dull the painful images locked in his mind. It did not work.

However, with the help of the Operational Stress Injury Social Support organization, he began to turn things around. Today, he has stopped drinking. He is taking proper medication for both his physical and psychological injuries, and he has been posted to the Integrated Personnel Support Centre at Petawawa as a transition to a civilian role he now takes up, or will soon take up, with OSISS, the organization that is helping him.

Of course, not all injuries occur in a war zone. An air force captain suffered from hearing loss and a chronic ringing in the ears. An ill-fitted helmet had left the tactical helicopter pilot unprotected from the relentless noise of the helicopter for more than a decade. She finally realized there was a serious problem and was eventually grounded. The hearing loss means the soldier no longer meets the standard for what is termed “universality of service,” the ability to fulfil the basic soldiering functions required of all Canadian Forces members. However, she too is now gainfully employed at the IPSC in Petawawa, helping other injured military members.