Many soldiers experienced psychological trauma as a consequence of war. These experiences of trauma can lead soldiers to develop mental health issues such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder. There remains high-levels of suicide among our war veterans and public safety professionals in Canada.
There is no argument as to the cause of Canada's entry into the war fought in Afghanistan. The events of 9-11 triggered a military response from a number of nations that for most of us now is known as part of our military history. Initially, the Government of Canada stood fast in a position to not involve our military to any great extent in the operations connected with Iraq; however, Afghanistan saw significant entry of our forces into the region which began for the Canadian Military in 2002.
With now three years passed since the mission to Afghanistan officially ended for Canadians, we're starting to appreciate a statistical representation of losses that provides a relative point from which to view a sample of the effects of the war and it's impact on the lives of those Canadians who served.
First of all, service in Afghanistan for Canadian soldiers was obviously a dangerous game. Canada's Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces lists a total contribution to the effort of nearly 40,000 men and women. This was Canada’s largest military deployment since the Second World War.
More Canadians served in Afghanistan than in Korea in the 1950s or the Balkans in the 1990's, making Canada's contribution of soldiers in Afghanistan historically significant in the context of our role as compared to previous conflicts in contemporary history.
In terms of losses and injury the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (a 'left-leaning' think-tank, policy-research institute in the country) reported in September 2006 that of the total numbers of troops that began operations in Kandahar in 2002, Canada had already sustained 43% of all military deaths among U.S. allies in the coalition, at the time the report.
This was a significant variant in terms of losses compared with the guiding nation, the United States. These conservative estimates proposed at the time, when adjusted for the relative size of troop commitments, the report goes on to estimate that:
"A Canadian soldier in Kandahar (at the time of the report) is nearly three times more likely to be killed in hostile action than a British soldier, and four-and-a-half times more likely than an American soldier in Afghanistan... (and) nearly six times more likely to die in hostilities than a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq."
War in any generation comes with consequences. With the official mission to Afghanistan now ended since 2012, we are in Canada today, Remembrance Day 2015, moved to remember all wars of the past. It's important for us to remember too that we today have veterans among us, much closer to us in our current history. The statistics relative to actual losses, including deaths to personnel, and numbers related to non-fatal casualties relative to Canada's military contribution to the conflict in Afghanistan are significant, considering that today we continue to lose Afghanistan Veteran's to suicide.
The war cost the lives of 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors directly. This virtual memorial lists nearly 200 soldiers lost in the Afghanistan mission:
In 2014, the Edmonton Sun ran a story speaking to the losses of our military veterans to suicide since our mission in Afghanistan ended:
"There were more suicides in the Canadian Forces since 2002 than combat deaths during Canada's Afghanistan mission, according to a report obtained by QMI Agency.
In the 12 years that Canadians fought in Afghanistan, 158 Armed Forces members were killed. According to records obtained from the Department of National Defence, there were 178 Canadian Forces suicides in the same period."
"Due to standard military practice to issue only the numbers of suicides of full-time male soldiers -- so the military can compare those statistics with the same age in the general population -- previous numbers did not include female soldiers or reservists.
This has allowed the government to state that the suicide rate of a full-time male members of the Armed Forces is no different than that of the average Canadian from a similar demographic."
"I think the problem is much bigger than the numbers show," military lawyer and retired Col. Michel Drapeau said. "Many suicides occur after the person has left the Armed Forces and those numbers aren't included in the totals."
"Often, the ones who have just left the Forces are the most desperate."
"Defence Minister Rob Nicholson has ensured the "Forces have taken great strides in recent years to make sure that more attention is being paid to mental health issues, whether they are deployment related or not," Ministry of National Defence spokesman Johanna Quinney told QMI Agency."
It's estimated that we have at minimum, 9% of returning soldiers who've served in Afghanistan living today with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
It's estimated that 35% of Public Safety Workers will develop PTSD as a consequence of their service.
Tema Conter Memorial Trust in Toronto reports 30 first responders and 8 military members have died by suicide in 2015. Between April 29 and December 31, 2014, 27 first responders died by suicide. In 2014, 19 military personnel died by suicide.
Lest We Forget. . . . .
Be Well. . . . .
Darren Michael Gregory: 11.11.15
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.