Major Graham Longhurst
Four tours overseas
Major Graham Longhurst has been in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves for nearly 25 years. Of his 25 years as a part-time soldier, he has served nearly 18 years as a full-time soldier.
His first deployment was to Bosnia, the second in Sudan, the third was in Afghanistan and fourth was in Kosovo. Each tour was separated with a few years in between the next. He found that there were challenges that accompanied him when he came home, two of which stand out in his mind.
“One of the impactful challenges was when I was home from Afghanistan — it was several months afterwards and my spouse at the time had changed her alarm [ringer] and it turned out to be this obnoxious sound. It went off and I darted out of bed, wide-awake down the end of my bed [in shock]. It was one of those reactions where you are wide-awake and ready for whatever is going to happen,” says Longhurst.
He experienced another challenge when he returned home and it was also related to his time in Afghanistan. He had to be hyper-vigilant with vehicles driving [in Afghanistan] because he didn’t know if there was a vehicle loaded with explosives and it if came too close there was a chance that it could explode. Longhurst says, “You were always looking out for vehicles that were low on the leaf springs and not riding very well.”
When he returned to Canada he says one thing he began to notice, were heavy loaded vehicles. “You suddenly noticed vehicles with heavy loads and you were instantly triggered. You would think ‘Is that going to blow up?’ You work through those and slowly they dissipate over time unless you have other factors that come into play,” says Longhurst.
Longhurst believes that the military has challenged him over the years, which is one of the reasons of why he has continued his involvement. Currently, his working title is Chief IA, for 41 Canadian Brigade Group. He works for an organization within the military called Influence Activities. Influence Activities specialize in fostering civil-military cooperation — both domestically in Canada, and as part of overseas deployments.
“We have an impact. People see us. We stand out. So we wanted to take advantage of that in a positive way. They pulled together people in the reserves within the military from a wide variety of backgrounds. They had training in negotiation, mediation, communication skills and they would send us overseas in that environment to interact with the local population,” says Longhurst.
Longhurst feels really fortunate that he was never in what he calls ‘any real serious situations’ that others would have found themselves in. “I think it is the state of being in that hyper-vigilant mode and trying to come down from it that makes the big difference.”
Master Corporal Rob Jackson
Three tours overseas
Master Corporal Rob Jackson has spent 26 years of his career with the Calgary Highlanders and Army Reserve Infantry unit. During his time as a regular Canadian Armed Forces Reservist, he went overseas three times, two of which were in Bosnia and one tour in Afghanistan. His first tour to Bosnia was in 1997, the second in 2002. In both Bosnia missions, Jackson provided security and a robust presence to assist police in doing their investigations.
His mission was to secure spaces for peace talks in nearby villages.
In 2008 Jackson’s mission was located in Afghanistan where he and his unit of Calgary Highlanders secured peace with the local Afghanistan army allies.
“Afghanistan was very different. It wasn’t peacekeeping in a traditional sense. We were trying to implement the peace with our allies with the local Afghanistan army. It was more stressful and dangerous. It was a different tour,” says Jackson.
Jackson’s reintegration process has been fortunately a positive experience, which may not be the same for many returning soldiers. He had been fortunate enough to have never fired his weapon on duty. He believes that his integration experience has been due to the large time span in between his tours.
“There are mandatory briefings on how to integrate back with your family, friends, employers etc. We have always been good [in providing support to veterans] but it is something we need to get better at every year so people don’t fall through the cracks,” says Jackson.
Currently Jackson is a full-time recruiter for 41 Canadian Brigade Group.
Master Corporal Joe Green
Three tours overseas
Master Corporal Joe Green first joined the Canadian Military in 2002, serving two tours in 2006 and one in 2008. His primary role was defensive operations, working in dangerous environments with firefights and ambushes occurring frequently. Most of his negative experiences came from his tours in 2006. They have been connected to his difficulties with integrating back into the civilian way of life.
The main memory that sticks out to Green was back in 2006 when his platoon was called out for a mission to help the American Special Forces Forward Operating Base. He had to stay back while his platoon went to aid as support. That night, none of the soldiers from his platoon came back to base, they were all in the hospital and one, Private Rob Costall, was killed in action. From then on the tour accelerated for him.
In 2008, Green began his integration process, starting a job in the civilian work force. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green.
It wasn’t until roughly 2010 where the thoughts and experiences from overseas started to have a major impact on his everyday life. “I started being less involved in the military, I started drinking heavily — not on a daily level — but when I would I would get extremely upset,” says Green.
With his job, he would have to drive in the city often. “There would be a chain reaction of thoughts that would lead back to something that happened on tour. I would dwell on it and I would be driving and I would come back to reality hours later in some random location in the city,” says Green.
That was when he realized that he needed some help. He relied on friends that had experience overseas with him for support and he also reached out to Veteran Affairs by calling the 1-800 number.
He was able to talk to someone right away. “One thing I felt guilty about was using the system. I didn’t want to be the guy to claim PTSD to get some sort of claim out of it,” says Green.
He remembers the woman on the phone telling him to leave it to the professionals to diagnose his symptoms as he was comparing his situation to others he felt had worse experiences. Shortly after, his file was processed with Veteran Affairs and he had appointments booked at an operational stress injury clinic.
Green was diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder all related to his experiences overseas in Afghanistan. He was prescribed medication to aid in sleep and also for depression. He soon began to see results.
“I went through treatment in 2012, and I just ended last year. I went through the whole process of weekly sessions for about two years — from going weekly, I was going every second week to once a month to every three months,” says Green.
His process spanned from 2012-2016. In October 2016 he was officially discharged in at the operational stress injury clinic in Calgary. He weaned himself off the medication with approval from his doctor.
“The OSI clinic took really good care of me. I always recommend it to other members who are going through similar situations. However, if they are not ready to help themselves — they have to want to be better,” says Green.
He describes his experience as positive and very supportive from the organizations that helped him. “I don’t have anything negative to say about Veterans Affairs,” says Green. Currently he is serving as a Reservist with the Calgary Highlanders and he has taken courses to earn promotions within the Canadian Military.
Read more on the reintegration of a Candian veteran by clicking here!
- By Cassie Riabko |