Vigil demands improved PTSD treatment for soldiers

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – A candlelight vigil was held for recent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-linked suicides in the Canadian military at a Cornwall war monument.

The Friends of Vets held a candlelit vigil at the Cornwall Cenotaph in tribute to the recent PTSD-linked deaths in the Canadian military.

A group of 25 people gathered at the Cornwall Cenotaph in remembrance of Warrant Officer Michael McNeil, Master Cpl. William Elliot, Master Bombadier Travis Halmsrast and Mastr Cpl. Sylvain Lelievre. All four soldiers were reported to have died from apparent suicides within a week.

"I am a soldier. I am a vet. I served 23 years with my country and I have PTSD," said Garry Samler," vice-president of the Friends of Vets, a peer-to-peer support group. "We are here to pay tribute to our four fallen brothers. We are saddened by their final act but we will remember them for their loyal service to our country."

Samler said the purpose of the vigil was to bring awareness to Canadians about the current situation facing veterans and the lack of action from the government. The support group is calling on politicians to provide more aid to veterans to prevent further deaths.

"We really have to bring this issue out to the public to get people help in the military to prevent these things from happening," said Steve Forrest, president of Friends of Vets.

Denis Labbe, co-founder of Friends of Vets, said he suffers from PTSD and it's a very strong condition.

"When you see horrible things you don't forget. But I'm doing better thanks to the people around me," he said.

Forrest called for better treatment to veterans who are suffering from PTSD to prevent further tragedies. He said recent cuts to veteran services are leaving former soldiers in the dark and unable to access help.

Forrest alleges over the past two years there have been 42 suicides in the Canadian military.

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