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After Effects of Trauma

Heroes Remember

After Effects of Trauma

Your body is an amazing thing. The way it handles itself, the way it protects itself. The first time I fired my gun in anger overseas was during Nichola’s ambush where she was killed. I thought my gun jammed. It sounded like the gun went “sproing!” It made a very mechanical sound but I did not hear the shot go off. I thought my gun was jammed. I did our drill which was to cant the weapon to the left, you look in the chamber to see where the bolt is sitting in order to carry out your next immediate action. And it’s a drill that is pounded into every soldier to make sure your weapon is serviceable and firing. There’s nothing wrong with my weapon. My ears had actually shut down the noise of my rifle firing to protect me. Like I said, your body is amazing what it can handle and cope and do. You know, when you’re exposed to loud noises, we wear ear protection here. When you’re in combat, you don’t have the luxury of stopping to put your ear plugs in or put your ear defenders on yet we were able to talk to each other, we were able to communicate with each other and yes you’re doing a lot of yelling over top of stuff but it’s funny what your body focuses on. It wants to focus on survival so it focuses very much visually and you start recording information like everything is intensified, everything is increased in its’ clearness, its’ brightness, its’ colour. Time pauses and you become very hypervigilant and unfortunately once your body has been accustomed to becoming that vigilant or that hyper vigilant, it doesn’t necessarily know how to turn that off and that causes some of the problems that Veterans suffer is that you don’t need to experience another gun fight but if you’re sitting at home and someone shoots off fireworks the next street over and you’re not expecting it that sudden noise automatically puts your body back into that moment of fight or flight and your body doesn’t stop to say okay I’m in Canada, it’s okay. As soon as it hears the noise your body reacts to the threat. And that’s why Veterans sometimes have reactions to helicopters, to fireworks, all of these things. And, you know, I took a rock in the windshield of my vehicle and it was just like a bullet hitting the glass on my G wagon and, you know, my instinct was to put my foot down on the gas and drive as fast as I could out of the ambush area. I’m in Canada and I’m on the Yellow Head Highway in Edmonton. It’s not an ambush area but my body is already trying to get me through it without conscious thought so it’s really an amazing thing but it also is all controlling. You can’t decide not to do it. You’re doing it automatically. Your automatic system is so overpowering of your regular system that it causes this disruption. And with that comes a lot of the extra problems. You have nightmares. A lot of times you relive the experience of the traumatic event and from what I understand from my therapist and my phycologist your brain is trying to file all that information and it’s so focused on survival that it wants to put everything in the file in chronological order and in the way it should be from back to front and get it all organized and put away. When you’re focused on survival in combat your body doesn’t put away that other information, it only takes what it needs. So later on your mind is shuffling through that paperwork and it’s trying to put everything back in order and so that’s why a lot of Veterans relive that experience again and again because you brain is trying to make order out of it. It’s trying to take a chaos and make it sensible.

Mr. McCue helps us understand the effects on one’s body after a traumatic experience during combat.

Robert McCue

Mr. Robert McCue was born August 22, 1972 in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. During his youth, he joined the air cadets and contributes this as a turning point towards a military career. Joining the Reserves, Mr. McCue became a part of the South Alberta Lighthorse Unit formerly known as the South Alberta Regiment. He accepted a deployment to Bosnia in 2003 as an infantry section commander, holding rank of sergeant. Later, he accepted a position with a newly developed unit, PSYOPS and deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. During this time Mr. McCue worked for Canada Post. Having a strong interest in military history and respecting the contributions made by his grandfather during WWI, Mr. McCue had the opportunity to travel as part of the delegation to Vimy in celebration of the 100th anniversary, an honour he will cherish for a lifetime. Mr. McCue presently resides in Edmonton, Alberta with his family.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
April 3, 2017
Person Interviewed:
Robert McCue
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)

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