Canada: The long shadow of war wounds loom over veterans, and their children - - PressFrom - Canada
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Canada The long shadow of war wounds loom over veterans, and their children

18:30  08 november  2019
18:30  08 november  2019 Source:   vancouversun.com

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One of the veterans who has 12 dead children to moan said after the interview: You drive home now, but what will become She will soon not have anyone to take care of her. Her parents are already over 70. It preserves and showcases the life stories of 12 veterans and their experiences at a war zone.

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Veteran Richard Vedan is the son of a Second World War soldier and residential school survivor. © Gerry Kahrmann Veteran Richard Vedan is the son of a Second World War soldier and residential school survivor.

“When I watched him intimidate people, I’d feel a mix of love and pride. And terror.”

Richard Vedan’s father saw a lot of action during the Second World War. As a private in the Canadian army, he fought Nazis and Italian Fascists with his revolver, Tommy gun and courage.

After the war, Richard, as a kid, remembers a neighbour threatening him and his friends for their boisterous playing in the streets. Richard’s father, Hector, heard about it, put on his army uniform, marched to the man’s door and asked, “Do you have a problem?” It did not take long for an apology.

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In any case, British artillerymen and their commanders were still only beginning to learn the complex A few enterprising British commanders took advantage of the barrage to push their men out into Yet the image of a wounded man sliding back into a trench was recalled endlessly by viewers as one of

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“Dad would take offence at the proverbial drop of a hat,” Richard says. “He wanted to be in control. He was never physically violent, but the fact he never struck us gave him more power. We loved him, but he scared the hell out of us.”

Decades later, Richard — who went on to serve in the Canadian military before venturing into higher education — is among a group of men and women in Canada, Germany and Britain who are investigating how war trauma passes from generation to generation.

“As we get close to Remembrance Day, we don’t want to take away from the sacrifices that veterans have made, but we can also think of the sacrifices subsequent generations have made, even if they never saw service themselves,” says Curt Shelton, who works with a University of B.C. group trauma program and is also a counsellor at B.C. Institute of Technology.

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The theme of victimised women and children travelled to other theatres: one poster that aimed to rally Italians behind the reconquest of their invaded territories showed endangered cherubs and the warning ‘Italians ! The horrors of Belgium and France are being repeated in invaded Veneto!’

His mother, his nephews, and their children live on Trent or along the road that runs between the Bet sews at a small table by the window. She listens to oral histories of Vietnam veterans as she Over the next few hours, Cecil went from almost comatose to a state of severe agitation where he

“What is it like having a father or mother leave home and go overseas? The children don’t have a mother or father. The spouse doesn’t have a partner. There’s an extra load on the people who remain,” Shelton said.

“And the person doesn’t come home to the same family. There are fathers who come back and find it very difficult to be the father again, because he’s been away and the children have kind of got used to him not being there. There’s often resistance.”

Society often overlooks the impact that veterans’ trauma has on their children and partners — even while more programs are being created to enable veterans themselves to work through the psychological pain that can come with harrowing conflict.

About 20 to 25 per cent of veterans return from duty bearing operational stress injuries, says Marvin Westwood, a professor emeritus of counselling psychology at UBC. Their anguish often includes “moral wounds” — deep guilt for doing awful things they ought not to have done.

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“Some veterans are overtaken by traumatic injury and want to end their lives,” says Westwood. Canada’s Department of National Defence recently reported 15 military suicides in 2018, a much higher rate than among other Canadian men, who are in turn four times more likely than women to take their own lives.

Years ago, Westwood was among those who created a program that has so far helped 1,300 mostly male members of the Canadian military, including those stationed in Afghanistan, to unpack their trauma. The veterans-transition program leads participants through 100 hours of group work over 10 days. “It’s soldiers helping soldiers.”

a man standing in front of a window:  UBC psychotherapist Marvin Westwood offers a “course” for Canadian soldiers returning with “psychological injuries”. © GLENN BAGLO UBC psychotherapist Marvin Westwood offers a “course” for Canadian soldiers returning with “psychological injuries”.

On Remembrance Day, it’s important, Westwood says, to be aware of those who return with emotional scars — and that means considering their families as well.

“When my father came back from war, not all of him came back” is a common military expression, says Westwood. Spouses and children are deeply impacted when they experience their loved one as “the walking dead.”

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He killed a child and that's not OK. He thinks about it a lot. It's obviously not something he's proud of, and so it's a moral wound . The biggest thing that [the veterans ] told me was that they're carrying around this horrible idea that they are bad people because they've done something bad and they can't

Wounding also became a way for men to avoid the danger and horror of the trenches. Doctors were instructed to be vigilant in cases of ‘malingering’, where soldiers pretended to be ill or wounded themselves so that they did not have to fight. It was a common belief of the medical profession that

Silent. Depressed. Suspicious. Agitated. Unpredictable. Haunted by nightmares. Explosive.

Westwood was forced to contend with his own emotionally wounded father. Even though his father was not allowed to sign up for the Second World War because he had a Prairie farm to run and youngsters to feed, he wanted to serve, so he got an extra job in a munitions factory. He suffered a major head injury.

“He was extremely traumatized, although we as kids didn’t know it. He medicated with booze. He was quite erratic because of his head injury, as many men are. He would fly off the handle and get mad. So I would learn to be quite avoidant in relationships, because they seemed dangerous. I couldn’t be close to him as I would have wanted — until just before he died.”

The book of Exodus in the Bible talks about how curses that befall parents can endure until the third or fourth generation. Westwood and Shelton are not the only ones who maintain that trauma, whether sustained by soldiers or others, can penetrate offspring even at the biological and genetic level.

“If we live in environments that are highly stressful, and are placed in situations where we’re always on guard, our defences are always up,” says Shelton. “That can turn on stress and anxiety genes that get passed to the next generation. So the next generation comes into the world with its thermostat set higher.”

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That is one of the reasons Westwood and Shelton call their program, designed to help military families counter the effects of inter-generational trauma, “The Long Shadow of War.”

“We would never think of talking back to him.”

It’s not entirely a coincidence that the main title of Richard Vedan’s PhD thesis in social work is: “How do we forgive our fathers?”

Although he respects his soldier father, who lied about his age so he would be allowed to sign up, there were times when his late dad was excruciatingly difficult to be around.

a painting of a person:  A family photo of Richard Vedan as a young boy, with his father, Hector Peters Aby Vedan, a Second World War veteran and a survivor of a residential school. © family hand out A family photo of Richard Vedan as a young boy, with his father, Hector Peters Aby Vedan, a Second World War veteran and a survivor of a residential school.

“Dad used to say, ‘Richard’s always too sensitive,’” says Richard, a boy soprano singer who went on to obtain his doctorate and head UBC’s First Nations House of Learning. Richard wonders today, at age 75, if his own heart problems are biologically related to the chronic stress his father endured.

Hector, a tradesman who also played professional hockey in Europe, was not only a veteran who had witnessed horrific combat situations involving live grenades, psychological torture, and secret rendezvous with resistance fighters — he was also born in 1923 into the Shuswap tribal group.

Richard did not find out until he was 28 that his father was Indigenous. And it was not until much later that Hector quietly revealed to his five children he had also attended St. Joseph’s Residential School near Williams Lake, where he was struck down by a year-long bout of rheumatic fever.

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Given his father’s difficult life, it is no wonder Richard is eager to learn, for professional and personal reasons, about the effects of inter-generational trauma and in taking part in The Long Shadow of War program, which is being run out of UBC’s Centre for Group Counselling and Trauma.

So is Gordon Barrett, a chaplain in the Canadian military. Barrett is often handed the disturbing responsibility of telling spouses and children their loved ones have been killed or suffered a grievous wound, many of which are psychological.

“It can be life-changing for families,” says Barrett. “(Veterans can come home from overseas) and be nervous around other people, or in crowds. They may be unable to concentrate. Their mind is elsewhere. They may just be sitting there, and all of a sudden start crying.”

In addition to being an Anglican deacon, Barrett holds a black belt in karate and is a commanding officer with the Canadian Army Cadets. His grandfather is featured on the cover of a book about Canada’s “boy soldiers” in the First World War, titled Old Enough to Fight. His father loaded ship guns in the frigid North Atlantic during the Second World War.

While Barrett doesn’t necessarily believe he absorbed inter-generational trauma from his paternal side, he does know he grew up with rigid authority. “Like a lot of veterans, my father didn’t talk much about the war. But it was a disciplined household. We would never think of talking back to him.”

Barrett, who obtained the military’s approval to be interviewed by Postmedia, says the Canadian Armed Forces now tells spouses before their husband or wife is stationed overseas that “the person you see leave today may not be exactly the same person you see come back tomorrow.”

People returning from life-threatening war zones often have trouble re-integrating, Barrett says, with some finding it impossible to hold down their previous jobs, and some becoming suicidal. It is of utmost importance, he says, for families to reach out for support.

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a man wearing a uniform:  Captain Gordon Barrett is the commanding officer of the 15th Field Artillery Royal Canadian Cadet Corp. at the Bessborough Armoury in Vancouver. His father and grandfather also served in the Canadian military. © Jason Payne Captain Gordon Barrett is the commanding officer of the 15th Field Artillery Royal Canadian Cadet Corp. at the Bessborough Armoury in Vancouver. His father and grandfather also served in the Canadian military.

Living with a dad who doesn’t talk

My own story relates to the passing on of inter-generational trauma connected to war.

My father served as an ambulance driver in the Second World War. My grandfather fought in the muddy, bloody trenches of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.

A farm boy from Brantford, Ontario, my grandfather survived, albeit with bullet and shrapnel wounds to his chest, hand and legs. He went on to become a Vancouver-based log scaler, father and provider.

My father, his son, however, did not really survive. My dad succumbed, when he was 27, to a psychotic breakdown. Various psychotherapists have theorized his mental illness was triggered by undiagnosed trauma he likely experienced in war.

It was my father’s job to drive to the front and, with no medical training, collect the bodies of those whose flesh had been shredded by bullets and bombs. It’s now commonplace to recognize that those who did not carry weapons are among the most likely to suffer trauma from war. They felt utterly helpless.

What was it like to have a father who disappeared into a mental institution, who became absolutely passive? The sense of absence was absolute. The pity deep. The awareness of injustice unforgettable. The feeling that life was a threat took hold at a young age.

But the proclivity to both wariness and compassion that I may have picked up from being the son of a veteran is not the whole story. Other people filled the gaps in my and my brother’s lives. And I realized later how much I admired my grandfather for his forbearance in war and in the sorrow of losing his son.

Westwood, who has worked for years with veterans, isn’t alone when he says he couldn’t himself endure combat since he doesn’t think he could stand the violence he would have to witness. “I don’t know if I could take it.” So he has great empathy for those who do serve, because sometimes armed conflict is necessary.

That is why, collaborating with colleagues in Britain and Germany, Westwood, his wife Diane, Shelton and others have helped create inter-generational workshops for “sons, grandsons, daughters and granddaughters who have had a dad who doesn’t talk, who wakes up with nightmares and shouting attacks or … who becomes alcoholic because he’s medicating his trauma.”

One foe that Westwood et al feel they are battling is Hollywood, which has produced more than 1,300 movies “heroizing” wars of the 20th century. “What happens is youth in North America grow up without a clue about the injuries that can happen in war, because their fathers denied it. It perpetuates a kind of hyper-masculinity, based on repression and stoicism.”

Such “sentimentality” about war can make things especially difficult for veterans struck down by stress injuries, he says. “It means they can’t talk about how they’re injured. And so they suck it up and isolate themselves. That exacerbates the symptoms of trauma.”

The rise of ‘moral wounds’

Shelton says therapists are increasingly aware many veterans today also suffer “moral wounds” during war. Some call them “soul wounds.”

Unfortunately, in modern conflicts such as those in Afghanistan or the Middle East, moral wounds are becoming more common, Westwood says. It is routine in guerrilla war, for instance, for young boys to be used as decoys. And Westwood has worked with soldiers who have killed teenagers who only appeared to be threats. A soldier’s unresolved guilt can strike hard at families.

Perhaps the key aim of the Long Shadow of War program, says Shelton, is to find ways to strengthen troubled veterans, spouses and children by bringing them back into the community. The most helpful thing seems to be to give people a sense of belonging. It’s an antidote to their shame, and their feeling that, “No one will understand me.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @douglastodd

Necropsy indicates Canadian fishing gear likely caused death of right whale .
HALIFAX — Necropsy results indicate a North Atlantic right whale found in waters off the eastern U.S. in September died after being entangled in Canadian fishing gear. The 40-year-old male known as Snake Eyes was last seen entangled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Aug. 6 off the Magdalen Islands. Its badly decomposed carcass was discovered off Long Island, N.Y., on Sept. 16. The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society did the necropsy a few days after the whale was found."They (scientists) determined that the likeliest cause of death was entanglement," said Jennifer Goebel, a spokeswoman for the fisheries arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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