The meeting on November 9, 2017 held at Trinity United Church started at 9:56 am with Vice-President Martin Alderwick chairing in place of President Ed Herold. There were 50 members in attendance as well as one new guest, Mike Morris and guest speaker, David MacDonald.
Del Campbell was called upon to make an announcement.
Del Campbell recognized John Proctor and his wife, Heather, for all the work they did in re-organizing and re-numbering the badge box in order to remove numbers of past members no longer attending meetings and thus making room for new member’s numbers to be added.
VP Alderwick reminded members that the upcoming Saturday is Remembrance Day and he encouraged all members able to do so to attend the ceremony. Member, Ron Durst, a retired military veteran, is presenting a wreath on the Club’s behalf. Martin will also be in attendance to assist Ron in presenting the wreath. Martin also recognized Grant Johnston who for many years presented a wreath on behalf of the club.
Announcements Activities - Ray Biffis - Remembrance Day on November 11th – 14 are signed up for lunch at Diana's Restaurant following the ceremony; - Christmas Luncheon on December 14th – there are sign-up sheets for those wishing to attend and this needs to be done soon. We could use more door prizes if you, or a business you know, can donate a prize that would be appreciated; - Arrangements are being make for Valentine’s Dinner at the Mandarin Restaurant on Feb. 14th.
Coffee Meetings – Martin announced that we are still meeting at 10:00 am on alternate Thursdays at both the Boathouse and the Airpark Café.
- Bob Reeve announced that the new computer the Club purchased needed to be exchanged at Best Buy. Best Buy treated us very well in that they gave a full credit to upgrade for a better computer even though we were well past their return date policy. - Bob also gave a special “thank-you” to Julian who spent considerable time attempting to make the first computer work but to no avail.
Ron Durst introduced David MacDonald of the Wounded Warriors Canada.
David Macdonald enlisted in the Canadian Army in 2005 as an infantry soldier in the Royal Regiment of Canada. Having always wanted to serve overseas, in 2008 he fulfilled his dream and deployed on Task Force 3-08 Afghanistan. As a member of the Force Protection Platoon that provided security for vulnerable supply convoys, it was common for him to lead a team that cleared the roads ahead of the convoy, searching for Improvised Explosive Devices and Taliban ambushes. He also worked extensively with local Afghan tribal leaders and other Coalition forces to further secure the peace in the war-torn country. On March 4, 2009 he was wounded when his vehicle was involved in a rollover while on patrol near Kandahar City. His injuries were extensive – broken pelvis and leg, broken ribs, crushed hand and traumatic brain injuries – which lead to coma and him having to be medically evacuated out of the country. Waking up in hospital in Germany with no memory of the incident and not being with the rest of his platoon was, if you ask him, far more traumatic than his physical injuries. Since coming home, he has dedicated his life to raise support for his military family. Starting as a volunteer brand ambassador for Wounded Warriors Canada, he has risen to the position of National Partnerships Director. In this role, he manages 3rd Party Projects that raise money and support for veterans and further developing awareness for veteran and military family needs in Canada. He is a regular contributor in the media on issues facing veterans today and has been featured on Metro Morning, CBC News, CTV News, Dale Goldhawk and many more. He has also proved he is physically capable again by completing the Army Run Half Marathon twice in 2013 and 2014 and completing 3 Tough Mudder Challenges all in support of his injured and ill brothers and sisters who have, like him, served this nation bravely and with honour.
David MacDonald – Wounded Warriors Canada Mr. MacDonald began by telling us about why he joined the military. It was a family tradition … his great-grandfather served in WWI, fighting in the Canadian Army at Passchendaele, Vimy and Hill 70, and his grandfather fought in WWII as a bomber navigator.
David joined the army after 9/11 and by the time he got accepted, Canada was involved in a war in Afghanistan and the army was trying to get as many solders as they could on the ground there. David was eager to get into the war and wanted to get involved as fast as he could and was told that the infantry was the best way to do that. After his basic training, he went to Petawawa, Ontario and trained in the Force Protection Unit.
The Force Protection Unit provided security for all the convoys as in force protection and as human bomb detectors. They used armoured Jeeps designed to disperse Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) outward when exploded. Because of the cost of these vehicles they would often get out and walk ahead of the convoy in order to be able to better detect IEDs. He described the job as walking in a desert looking for that one piece of sand that wasn’t supposed to be there.
During basic training a strong camaraderie was developed in David’s unit to the degree that the bonds became stronger than family. He said the soldiers in the unit would literally die for each other. During his time in Afghanistan he went on over 80 missions assigned to different searches for IEDs and weapons caches. On landing in Afghanistan in 2008 within a day of landing there were 13 soldiers killed in action. David’s first duty on landing was to load the bodies of these soldiers onto the plane for their return home.
In March 2009 David was going out on a patrol and by now his unit was considered as an experienced unit. David, who was also cross-trained as a medic, was the medic for this patrol. Leaving the base that day was the last thing he remembered. The next thing he knew he was in a hospital in Germany. It was explained to him that they had been in the process of clearing a bridge and once over the bridge there was an incident with another vehicle where the other vehicle hit his vehicle causing it to roll over numerous times. This had been done with severe force. Immediately prior to the incident David had been standing up in the hatch of the vehicle observing rear guard action and was in the process of coming down into his vehicle but not yet buckled in. He must have bounced around in the vehicle and off the walls of it. David ended up breaking his pelvis, his left femur, six ribs, every bone in his hand, crushed his nose, and 17 skull fractures … all together he broke 27 bones in his body. The rest of David’s crew walked away unharmed except for one guy who had a slight back injury.
On the helicopter ride back to the hospital his heart stopped but a medic brought him back. However, when he woke up in a clean hospital he knew he was no longer in Afghanistan because there was no sand which meant he must have received serious injuries. He found out he was in Germany. Because of the drugs for the pain he had no feeling and was worried he had lost some limbs or something during the accident. However, being assured that he had all of his parts, his next concern was for his crew. The fact that they were still in Afghanistan, (for the next two months) while he was out of harms-way was more traumatizing to him than his injuries.
After being in the hospital in Germany for 14 days, it was deemed safe enough for David to fly back home to Canada. But there was no hero’s welcome. It was not quite what he expected. Only his immediate family and one army representative were there to meet him as he arrived in his wheelchair. Although no one else from his unit was injured during his unit’s tour in Afghanistan, there were 21 others killed from that nine-month tour to Afghanistan, the largest kill rate of any Canadian tour in Afghanistan.
When David came home, the difficulties started almost immediately. At that time, the Army was ill-prepared to deal with the casualties coming out of Afghanistan. When he met with the doctors in Toronto they had no idea what he was showing up with. David’s file had been lost. Their prognosis was that his injuries were permanent and their solution was to prescribe OxyContin and to come back if he needed more. This wasn’t the care that he expected to receive when he returned home.
For soldiers overseas, there wasn’t very much to do there except to play cards and to workout. So, because David was physically fit when he was injured within six months he was back in the gym and working out again and he recovered physically.
But David found that things he used to do for fun were no longer fun. He wasn’t happy with going out and doing the social things he had done before going to Afghanistan. He was really uncomfortable in crowded places, line-ups or even in grocery stores. These things put him into a cold sweat and made him uncomfortable. His patience level was at nil. When he was driving in a car and had to stop for something it made him really uncomfortable because if you stopped for something in Afghanistan you were in danger of being under attack or being a target. He got to the point where he couldn’t drive any more.
Eventually David became reclusive. He did want to hang with his friends and he cut his family off. The reason was that he didn’t want to talk about his experience anymore. Fighting in Afghanistan was different than people perceived because you weren’t fighting a conventional army. The enemy didn’t wear uniforms so they were hard to recognize from regular civilians and some of the enemy were actually children. Everyone was a potential threat to kill you. David had much difficulty talking about the things he had to do in combat so he kept those stories inside because he didn’t want to be judged for what he did.
All of this put stresses on David’s life. His wife couldn’t understand what had happened to him and why he was so anti-social. By 2011 his wife had had enough because this was not what she expected from their marriage so they got a divorce. At this point David realized that he hadn’t spoken to his friends or family in the past two years. He lost his wife, his home and he was in a dead-end job he hated.
He became despondent because he had survived to come home but 21 others didn’t so he considered and attempted suicide from a heroin overdose. However, he was discovered and three days later he was recovering in a hospital. One day after a training exercise he broke down in a corner of the room and when his supervisor arrived everything bothering him poured out and at that point he realized if he didn’t get professional help he would try to kill himself again.
A military doctor “stumbled” onto him and David finally got the help that he needed. David went to see a social worker and a psychologist and they recognized postraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is still in the recovery process because this injury never goes away because you live with it for the rest of your life but you can go on with your life.
David got involved with a group of recovering soldiers and they decided to send him on an excursion to Nepal. David figured “why not” and went to Nepal to climb a mountain with other injured soldiers. While doing this he had lots of time to reflect on life and recognized that his situation wasn’t unique. It was this experience that started David down the path to wondering what he could do to help thousands of other soldiers suffering like he was … not just from Afghanistan, but from Cambodia, Somalia, Bosnia, the Golan Heights and even here in Canada with soldiers who have been in severe military accidents.
Public awareness just isn’t there about these soldiers. So, David got involved with a group, first as a volunteer and intern that helps military veterans and their families, and then he transitioned over to become the National Partnerships Director of Wounded Warriors Canada.
Wounded Warriors Canada is an organization that runs 13 programs for wounded veterans (now including first responders) ... programs aimed at helping them overcome the effects of PTSD. Wounded Warriors also recognized that it needed to involve families as well. They have a program called COPE which is run by a former military leader who was in several theatres of war and himself suffered from severe PTSD. He and his wife developed the program to help couples and it is so successful that they are now exporting this program to other countries. All of this requires funding and it’s David’s job to help make sure the funding happens.
David said that he is currently undergoing a military discharge from the army and trying to get medical benefits which is quite an ordeal dealing with the bureaucracy. He has three case managers who don’t even talk to each other. This is why Wounded Warriors exists. To help provide the mental health care service to veterans and people suffering from PTSD.
David is now in a better place in his life with a secure job and in a new personal relationship.
David responded to questions from the membership.
At the conclusion of David MacDonald’s presentation, he received a standing ovation from the Club.
Julian Sale thanked David MacDonald and presented him with a token of the Club’s appreciation.