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Bombardier (Corporal) – (Ret’d) Naomi Fong

Naomi Fong always aspired to serve her country and community. She was in college studying to be a paramedic when she enlisted in the Army Reserve. She served for close to 10 years before a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis led to her release.

Ottawa Valley, Ontario

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photo credit: Art by Agata

Joined

2007

Deployments

  • Operation Nanook 2008
  • Operation Cadence 2010

In 2007, as a soon-to-be-qualified paramedic, Naomi Fong decided she wanted to work  in her community after college and serve in the Army reserves at the same time.

“I thought, I can do both. The Reserve would be a great way to serve, learn new skills,” she says. “Basically, I wanted to be in a helping role and have two careers.”

Fong chose Artillery as her trade. On one of her advanced artillery training courses, she achieved top candidate and a fellow female comrade and friend was genuinely proud of her for reaching that distinction. Another of her female comrade also congratulated her on her achievement once word got back to the unit.   

Soon, she was able to test her new skills as a bombardier through contracts with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. Fong took part in two operations before mental and physical injuries abruptly ended both her military career and her dreams of working as a paramedic.

“I met some great people in the North. It was beautiful to see the culture, to experience that part of Canada, do things I would have never have done or seen elsewhere.”

One of those operations was Operation Nanook 2008, an annual joint training exercise in the Arctic. Fong remembers the great connections and unforgettable memories she made. “I met some great people in the North. It was beautiful to see the culture, to experience that part of Canada, do things I would have never done or seen elsewhere. It was my most memorable time while I served,” she says.

Naomi Fong during Operation Nanook 2008

Naomi Fong during Operation Nanook 2008

Not all of her experiences in the military were positive. As a woman of Asian heritage, she experienced racial discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse while in the CAF. She remembers many incidents where people made racist comments based on stereotypes of Asians as bad drivers or Asian women as sexually submissive. “You can tell when someone is making a joke in poor taste or when it’s actually said maliciously,” she says.

She is also a survivor of sexual assault, and she developed PTSD as a result of her mental and physical injuries. In the years leading up to her release, Fong was called to testify in a court martial for her sexual assault case. She also found herself in a really dark place.

“From about 2010 to 2014, I was really bad. I was smoking a pack a day when I had never smoked in my life before! Thankfully, I found a mentor… I set goals for myself, started meditating every day. I quit smoking. I started doing yoga regularly.”

“You know, it can be hard to talk about at times. That being said, I’ve done harder things in my life and healthy conversations around sexual assault and intersectionality need to happen in our society.”

Today, she is open about the harassment and sexual assault she experienced in the military. She hopes that others will not have to live through this, and that those who do experience it will know it’s okay to talk about their experiences. “You know, it can be hard to talk about at times. That being said, I’ve done harder things in my life and healthy conversations around sexual assault and intersectionality need to happen in our society.”

Naomi Fong with her bronze medals at the 2018 Invictus Games

Naomi Fong with her bronze medals at the 2018 Invictus Games

By the time she released in 2016, Fong signed up to study social service work at Algonquin College. It was part of her recovery process to boost her self-confidence and increase her ability to help others. She also started training for the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia where she competed in cycling, powerlifting and sitting volleyball and took home two bronze medals in the Women’s road cycling competitions.

After her triumphs at Invictus, Fong hopes that sharing her story will help those suffering in silence find the courage to come forward.

“Being surrounded by others at Invictus – who were also injured – shows that it doesn’t define you. We are the masters of our fate and captains of our Soul.”

After facing recent uncertain health news, Fong decided to publish her poetry in hopes that it may help others.

With courage, integrity and loyalty, Naomi Fong has left her mark. She is one of our Canadian Veterans. Discover more stories.

If you a Veteran, family member or caregiver in need of mental health support, the VAC Assistance Service is available to you 24/7, 365 days a year at no cost. Call 1-800-268-7708 to speak to a mental health professional right now.


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