Thursday, 8 September 2016

Another brick in the wall - The long road to recovery

Well here we go..

The storyline started on May 14 1992, riding along a convoy to Sarajevo in war torn country, Former Yugoslavia. I will leave to historians to declare who won what and who was the lesser or worse of the bad guys in the Balkans. We joined the Battle Group in Lahr Germany in early April 92, I recall that day as a VanDoo Officer (R22R) told me and Doug Martin that we were taking the spot of a valuable bayonet, but that's not the story..

The morning of the 10 May 92, we departed Croatia heading to shoot a video interview with MGen Lewis MacKenzie, located in Sarajevo, at a time where Serbia and Croatia were fighting borders and territories. My road trip partners on the small convoy were Doug Martin (PAO), Gerry Barrett (Photog), Monty Penney (Medic), Dan Morin our VanDoo Infantry Bodyguard, Guy Belisle (Infantry Officer), and couple other guys from the UNPROFOR Battlegroup. 
On the morning of the 14 May 1992, both the Bosnia and the Serbian military forces decided to take heavy shots at each other in order to move up their territory within the city of Sarajevo. We just happened to be in the middle of the mix as our quarters were near the exit to the Airport. In any modern wars, controlling airports and radio/TV station are pretty important I’ve learned.. 
The shelling on our position and around the area, was from that morning and for 3 days non-stop. On the 4th day, MGen Lewis MacKenzie managed to get a cease-fire in order for the HQ staff and us to get out of the city. We eventually returned on the 1 July 1992 to re-open the Airport for a Air Bridge to help the population victim of the war. The UNPROFOR 'Roto 0' lasted 6 months like most tours for Canadian soldiers in the 90'. Now with the training required and all that is related to UN Rotations preps, you can expect to be away from your family for at least 9 months.
So I got to return home to Canada on a Hercules CC-130 on the 10th Sept with all of my Betacam tapes. We were half dozen passengers plus aircrew on the plane. We had to wait to embark on the plane as a Sgt. from 4 CER (Combat Engineer Regiment) killed by a road side mine earlier that week was also returning home. The ride home was very silent. 
Looking back, It was the very first time that a PA (Public Affairs) team comprise of a PAO and Video /Still shooters to be attached for 6 months to a Battle Group on a UN Mission. 


And the rest is.. Not the history especially when it comes to PTSD..

I can honestly say that I have coped over the years with stress and anxiety by using what i call my 'Do and don't'. They are all Rule #1

Rule #1: Forget fireworks for the rest of your life
Rule #1: When you fly, aisles seat only, and enter plane last
Rule #1: Avoid subway, bus, and tunnels
Rule #1: No crowds and if so reserve your seat with an exit plan

I actually broke rule #1a recently to find myself back where I was 24 years ago.. Thanks to my friends Patrick S. and Guy P.  I was able to get out off the streets of downtown Ottawa where Fireworks were in full gear.
Subsequently the sleepless nights and the Anxiety have returned, but this time with the guidance of my good Friend Mike L. and Mary P., I got to meet pretty special and dedicated folks at (VAC) Veterans Affairs Canada and will start the long road to what I hope will be helpful. Either way how worse could it actually be? 
I intend to write and talk on my progress as the months go by. My intent is solely to demystify what it means to be in this kind of s ate and thinking that all is good. Also, maybe, just maybe if there is someone out there who is felling the same symptoms can see that help is out there, but shouldn't take like me 24 year to do something about it.

Standing by my Iltis Jeep May 1992. the vehicle that took us around totally unprotected the was zone was destroyed by bombing on the early morning of May 14, at  the Rainbow Hotel in Sarajevo. The Building was a residence that had been build for the Olympics just a few years before.
(Photo: Gerry Barrett)

Video segment that I shot in My 1992, later published by a Former Swedish Soldier
(click on YouTube link, below)


I've added a short Audio file of the recording from our Balcony on the morning of  May 14, 1992

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