By Ross Petten
The Provincial Command of The Royal Canadian Legion and its more than 4,000 members has a long and proud tradition of assisting veterans and their dependents.
The Legion was founded on three pillars: remembrance; veteran care, and community service, and it was within these parameters that in 1918 the wounded and returned First World War servicemen established The Great War Veterans Association of Newfoundland, the forerunner of our NL Provincial Command.
As president, on behalf of our members, I want to firstly express our deepest and most sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of our four hero veterans who succumbed to the lingering ravages of war by means of suicide, possibly brought on by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Operational Stress and perceived desperation.
The challenges facing veterans, both serving and after release, are widespread and have uniquely developed through the roles and responsibilities they take on while serving.
Some Canadian Forces and RCMP members may have suffered grave wounds, loss of colleagues and friends, operational stress injuries, mental health challenges, and difficulties transitioning to civilian life. The Legion is there to support them, just as we have always been, through our ability to offer camaraderie at our branches, and more importantly our Service Officer Network that can connect veterans to the help they need.
Often, the biggest challenge in the veteran’s community is getting information and assistance to those who need it and identifying those individuals in our neighbourhoods that need support. Our local Legion branches are the “boots-on-the-ground” connecting veterans and their families with available funds and programs.
Here are some facts:
• our mission is to care for all veterans, including serving Canadian Forces and RCMP members, as well as their families;
• our Service Officer Network has more than 48 officers at every Legion branch across Newfoundland and Labrador;
• we have a command service officer, who provides assistance with access to Veterans Affairs disability benefits and services;
• veterans and their families do not need to be Legion members to request help from a service officer.
Regarding suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder:
• suicide is a complex issue that has many contributing factors. We can never assume any reasons for why someone would take their own life;
• While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main symptoms:
1. re-experiencing the traumatic event;
2. avoiding reminders of the trauma; and,
3. increased anxiety and emotional arousal.
Members of the Canadian Forces, RCMP and veterans are not violent people, they joined the services to care for and protect people and the country they love.
In closing, on behalf of our command, I implore, that if you are a veteran who needs assistance, or a person who is aware of a veteran — or a member of a veteran’s family who needs assistance, please call us at 753-6666 or 725-5727.
Our Provincial Command service officer is Boyd Carter, a retired veteran of the Canadian Forces, and he is here to help you.
We will remember them.
— Ross Petten is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Command of the Royal Canadian Legion. He is a resident of Port de Grave.