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Finding his way back home

"I don't know where I would be today if it wasn't for the military. I was going down a really bad path, and the military set me straight," says Luc Therrien, (Ret'd) Warrant Officer.

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Luc is so thankful for what the military brought to his life. Before enlisting, he desperately needed some stability and had all but given up. In the Forces, he found structure, a sense of belonging and a pride that he never knew could exist. He became confident and disciplined while gaining a family from the get-go.

However, Luc’s successful military career left him deeply scarred after witnessing some of the most gruesome realities of war. Life would never be the same. Images would forever haunt him.

Transition to life after service did not go smoothly, and Luc found himself living on the streets of Montréal. Lacking support and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Luc experienced many challenges.

A rough beginning

Born and raised in Laval, Quebec, Luc had a difficult childhood. Abuse had hardened his soul and led him down a path of destruction. The streets had become his home. Begging was normal. It was no life for a teenage boy.

One bitter cold night in particular, he thought he was going to freeze. He knocked on the door of the Old Brewery Mission, requesting a bed. Because he was a minor, they took him in, even though they were at full capacity.

Here, Luc had a home—for two months. After that, he was back on the streets. A friend suggested he join the military, and Luc thought, “how bad could it be? Let’s do this!”

Life in the military

Luc began his military career in the infantry reserve in 1984 at age 17. He remembers his parents signing documents to authorize his enrollment.

His time in the reserve was short. He was hand-picked to undergo a two-year, intensive training program to join the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. He was in the best shape of his life, physically and mentally.

“Life in the military will shape you like nothing else will. The training you receive is good and they try to prepare you for the worst, but it’s nothing like witnessing war,” says Luc.

He deployed overseas a number of times: Bosnia, Israel, Afghanistan, Africa, Europe and Thailand. Day-to-day operations were intense. Peacekeeping, enforcing rules and training officials to be combat-ready were daily tasks. “You’re surrounded by devastation, children with firearms, suffering, hunger, the worst of humanity—I can honestly say I saw the devil in people,” Luc shares.

Life overseas was difficult, and eventually he became lonely. “You appreciate your country so much more when you see the horrors of other places” says Luc. However, he cherishes the unique bond he and his fellow-soldiers developed. He feels he did his duty.

In 1995, with acute symptoms of PTSD, Luc knew it was time to retire and was medically released.

Life post-military

When Luc retired, he thought he was ready to start living a post-service life. However, his transition did not go smoothly. He lacked the tools to integrate successfully into a new community. The military had provided the only stability he had ever known, and now that was in the past.

He wondered how he would sell himself to employers. Who would want to hire him? Were his skills actually transferable? He felt socially awkward and his PTSD was lingering.

For years he struggled. Eviction after eviction. Job loss after job loss. Once again, he found himself homeless, sleeping on a bench.

The one place that he could count on was the Old Brewery Mission. “I needed them as a teenager, and now here I am years later, a man, and I still needed their help” says Luc. “Angels!”

Through their Les Sentinelles program, Luc received psychosocial support, money toward rent on a home and new furniture, and guidance to finding a job.

He was skeptical at first. “I thought to myself is Les Sentinelles legit?” His Veterans Affairs Canada case manager explained the process and he was impressed.

“I have no idea where I would be today if it wasn’t for Les Sentinelles. I had lost all faith in myself and everything was just spinning out of control. The help I received gave me hope for the future”.

A new beginning

Luc remembers breaking into tears when he received the support he needed. He could not believe that he had another chance to rebuild his life.

Today, Luc works for a cleaning company. He’s able to save money and treat himself from time to time. The job has allowed him a flexible schedule with benefits and a healthy work environment.

During his spare time, Luc enjoys biking which allows him to explore the city of Montreal. “Every day is an adventure. I meet so many people and it feels good to talk to people, especially when they learn that I’m a Veteran” says Luc. 

A turbulent start to life led Luc to a career in the military. Following his release, he experienced even more adversity until the Old Brewery Mission steered him to the right program, Les Sentinelles.

Finally, Luc Therrien was able to reintegrate after service despite the numerous challenges and his worst moments of distress. Home at last.

Les Sentinelles program offers psychosocial support to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, supports housing integration, promotes residential stability and strives to better understand the needs and experiences of homeless Veterans. It is partly funded by the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund.

Date published: 2021-04-15

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