Soldier suicides hit home for Cornwall vets, vigil planned

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario –A rash of soldier suicides in the Canadian Forces is a story Steve Forrest knows all too well.

From left are Friends of Vets co-founders Denis Labbe and Steve Forest.

Army officials have confirmed four suicide deaths over the last few weeks and veterans in Cornwall are amongst a growing voice that is calling for change to the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is being handled in the Canadian military.

"The recent military suicides have opened up old feelings. I don't smile as much," said Forrest, president of the Friends of Vets support group. "The Department of National Defence (DND) and the government seem to have always been rough with the treatment of their people in the military."

Forrest served as a cook in the Canadian military from 1981 until 1982 before he was honorably discharged for medical reasons. Since then, he has struggled with suicidal ideations for many years.

"People with PTSD are at a risk of suicide," he said. "DND could be doing a much better job."

To show support for Canada's fallen heroes, Friends of Vets is holding a 'Vigil for the Military Suicides' on Monday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. at the Cornwall Cenotaph (corner of Second Street and Bedford Street).

"The vigil is on a short notice. It was done with a sense of urgency," said Forrest.  

He invites everyone to join in on the tribute to Canadian soldiers who have taken their own lives.

Denis Labbe, Friends of Vets past president, and Forrest would also like to see more peer-to-peer support groups outside of Cornwall for veterans across the counties.

"The group is helping me move along in life. I have fewer issues now," said Forrest.

Friends of Vets gather at the Cornwall Wesleyan Church (780 Sydney Street) for meetings on the first and third Thursday of every month starting at 7 p.m. The next meeting is on Dec. 19.

For more information on the Friends of Vets, visit www.friendsofvets.org.

Organizations: Department of National Defence, Cornwall Cenotaph, Cornwall Wesleyan Church 780 Sydney Street

Geographic location: Cornwall, Canada, Second Street Bedford Street

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