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To be that Sergeant again.

The vehicle that Sgt. (Retired) John Tescione was riding in on New Year’s Eve, 1994, sits in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. It has no fewer than 54 bullet holes, likely more. Seven hit John. Fragments of the four bullets that struck his head are still there, a quarter-century later.

The physical and emotional trauma of that night linger—the night that he and a buddy from the Royal Canadian Regiment 1st Battalion were ambushed by a group of Serbians. They volunteered for this, serving in Croatia as United Nations peacekeepers, but at that moment, it felt more like war.

“The bravado of it all, you feel indestructible. I trained for so long to be doing what I was doing,” he says. “As shocking as it all may be while you’re in it, you almost pray for something like that to happen.”

John and Cpl. (Retired) Phil Badanai both suffered severe injuries. It’s difficult to imagine, but John healed quickly and returned to service a month later. The years passed and he struggled with ongoing physical and emotional trauma, but John says he didn’t want to appear weak. He missed appointments to see a military psychologist and ignored advice to get the help he obviously needed.

“You don’t understand it because you’ve never felt pain like that before,” he says. “And then you start to worry about what people think of you.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was not well understood at the time of John’s recovery. He served for 10 more years with his beloved 48th Highlanders before he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004. He discharged from the reserve in November 2006.

John found help with peer support through Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS). OSISS had such an impact that he eventually became the peer support coordinator for the GTA. He wanted to give something back to the program, but he found that it helped him too.

“You leave these conversations an hour or two later and you’re physically drained,” he says. “But, you have this energy that develops inside you because you know that you’re helping somebody. It was therapeutic. I loved it.”

With PTSD, however, sometimes dark periods return. John entered treatment for his PTSD-related alcoholism and exited three months later a new man—clean, sober and 90 pounds lighter. Around that time, his old friend Phil Badanai was training for the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. The Invictus Games are an international event for ill and injured active duty members and Veterans.

“I felt like a zero. I was isolating myself and I felt like I wanted to die,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that I got accepted into Invictus. It was like I hit the lottery.”

John didn’t take home any hardware, but there is plenty of online video evidence showing him working the crowd in Australia. As he did with peer support, John is looking at how he can continue with Invictus.

“If you had told me two years ago that I would be running and sailing and have a whole new group of friends, I’d have told you that you were crazy.” John says he wants to “be that Sergeant again” and that his experience with Invictus has given him the drive to lead and be around people again. Brighter times, for sure.


We thank Tanya, Ryan, Bambi and John for sharing their stories with us. By doing so they are helping us improve our processes and how we share information on our programs. If you are a Veteran or family member and you would like to share your story, contact us. We would love to hear from you and share your experience with your Veteran community.




1 866 522 2122


Veterans Affairs Canada

PO Box 7700,

Charlottetown, PE

C1A 8M9

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