Language selection

Season 5: Service and sacrifice across generations

Service, courage and sacrifice—at home and around the world.

We all benefit from the incredible service and sacrifice of the more than 2.3 million Canadians who have proudly served our country in uniform for more than 100 years. It is our duty to honour and remember them.

In this mini-series, you will hear from Canadians who have proudly served at home and abroad. From natural disaster relief operations to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

Tune in and subscribe through your favourite podcasting app and join the conversation on social media by using #CanadaRemembers



Teaser - Introducing Faces of Freedom Podcast Season Five

Teaser Episode

In this season of the Faces of Freedom podcast, we’re taking you to missions at home and around the world. Hit that subscribe button because season five launches 6 November 2021.

  • Transcript of podcast - Teaser Episode

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:06]

    Veterans Affairs Canada’s Faces of Freedom podcast is back with a brand new mini series just in time for Veterans’ Week.

    In the days leading up to Remembrance Day, you’ll hear stories from modern-day Veterans who have demonstrated both courage and sacrifice, at home and around the world. From natural disaster relief operations, to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan—you don’t want to miss these stories.

    Hit that subscribe button and join us this November.

    Music [00:30]


Episode 1 - Peacekeeping: Haiti is in trouble

Dominique Geoffroy

A member of the Canadian Armed Forces, Chief Warrant Officer Dominique Geoffroy enlisted in 1987, and went on to serve on deployments around the world, including a United Nations Mission to Haiti in 1997.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 1

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:05]

    For over 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform.

    All of us benefit from their incredible service and sacrifice, it is our duty to honour and remember them. They have served in many roles both at home and abroad. From peacekeeping missions around the world, to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. They have fought for freedom, helped restore peace and security, and responded to emergencies. They proudly served, and their bravery will never be forgotten. They are our Faces of Freedom.

    In June 1993, the United Nations Security Council imposed an oil and arms embargo against Haiti in an effort to force their military dictatorship to allow its elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to return to power. After they finally relented, a UN force then landed in Haiti to enforce the deal to allow Aristide to resume his position, and help rebuild the impoverished nation.

    Without any military service history in his family, Chief Warrant Officer Dominique Geoffroy accompanied one of his friends to a recruiting centre in Sherbrooke, Quebec, just after finishing high school. Three months later he joined the Canadian Armed Forces, and went on to serve on deployments around the world, including a UN mission to Haiti in 1997.

    Dominique Geoffroy [1:30]

    To put it into the perspective of Haiti, so in 1996, I was asked to be posted with the Vandoos in Quebec. They stood up a new unit over there, and so, a very operational unit, so of course, I asked to go and I was just back from my second tour in Bosnia. And, so as soon as I got there, we did a bit of training, and then they started to talk about Haiti. I think I was the second deployment, the second team to go over there. So the artillery I think, was there before us, so we started to talk about Haiti a few months before we left. And they wanted volunteers to go. So of course, I put my name up. And, and I wanted to go see, because it was, it's, it's, it's not that far from us. So we hear, we know, I have friends when I was at school, my parents had friends from Haiti. So it was very different than going to Bosnia, for example, where I didn't know anything about Bosnia. And I certainly didn't know anyone from Bosnia before. As of that, that deployment in Haiti, I knew people from there.

    So we didn't know what to expect in Haiti, because it was… it was not a country at war, but it was very close to a civilian war. So a UN mission, it's more a security mission. It's a presence that you want to have over there. So we have patrols going all over the city of Port-au-Prince, which is a big city, we have to protect the president. But it was a security mission. It was a UN, again a UN presence in town to make sure that they were not going into a civilian war. I was a young Master Corporal back then. So my perspective of the mission was totally different than it would be today, as a Senior Chief. Back then, as a Master Corporal, my main job was to do what I was told to do. And you know, you're, you have your mission and you execute your mission.

    Host [3:55]

    When Geoffroy deployed to Haiti, he had to prepare himself for one the most important parts of any deployment: adapting to his new surroundings.

    Dominique Geoffroy [4:04]

    So I still remember when I got, when I got into Haiti, in 97, so first, end of the winter over here in the country, in Canada, in Quebec… Valcartier, where the winter is very cold, and we have a lot of snow. So April, we were getting to the beginning of the spring. And then I remember, even though it's been 20, almost 25 years, I still remember when I left the plane. So we landed in Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

    And, you get out of the plane, and you feel that… that heat coming into you. And the smell was very different than the smell that we used to have here in Quebec as well, in Canada. So so it was a stressful experience, for sure, because then you get there and it's like, if you go through a wall of heat, and you're like “Oh my god, what am I doing over here? What am I going to do?” And then the country is totally different than what you used to. So it was quite an experience. And I still remember that feeling like if it was yesterday.

    So I was a medic. My job over there was, for the first little while, was to take care of the pharmacy, and the equipment, the medical equipment.

    Before you do any handover, you need to adapt. You need to adapt to the country, you need to adapt to the weather, you need to adapt to the culture, you need to adapt to the people. So that's the first thing you need to adapt to your new, your new environment. Where are you going to sleep? Where are you going to eat? Where do you go to the bathroom? Where do you go for shower? Where, where and when can you call your family? Do you have internet?

    So my role, again, was to work at the medical clinic, on the camp. I was a, an armored vehicle driver as well. So we have to drive around, we need to do recces of hospitals and, and the other countries supporting us on the medical side.

    So there's two aspects, you get the garrison care. So we’re there as a clinic to do the garrison care, the normal medical care, follow people on camp, but you also have to be ready for any emergency. So we had helicopters ready to go, we had ambulances ready to go. And you need to know where to go. If you get a call, because we have patrols going all over the city in Port-au-Prince… it could be very hostile. And at the same time, people could be very friendly as well. So you need to navigate in that town, in that city.

    And more importantly, where to go if you have an emergency. But on a daily basis, when there's no emergency, it's just a normal clinic on camp, and you're taking care of people.

    We were leaving the camp on a daily basis. Again, Port-au-Prince it… some, some places in Port-au-Prince were very beautiful, like, nice, very nice place like five star resorts. And it was beautiful. Other places of Port-au-Prince were maybe not as beautiful, or poor. You could not go in town and have your arm hanging out of the car with your watch on your wrist, because your watch would be gone right away. So again, people were fighting for, not fighting against each other, but to get whatever they needed to, to to have to be able to put food on the table.

    Port-au-Prince was, is the main city over there. Of course, we went out in small villages, outside of Port-au-Prince. Sometimes we went there by, by by vehicles, sometimes we flew with helicopters to go to other parts of the country. But the base, the base camp was in Port-au-Prince. So most of the tour, for me was at Port-au-Prince. But, but every week or every other week anyway, we were flying out to other countries or driving over to villages, as well as a medical team just to to sometimes just to provide care to the local population, especially in the small villages. So we used to go over there and just, just to, sometimes just to put some dressings, on, on wounds, or just to just to talk to the kids and do some dental treatment, medical treatment, but nothing, nothing big, but the basic stuff. So what they needed us to do anyway. But to do medical assessments to the local population, we had special trucks, medical trucks that we used. So that's a truck that's got a sick bay attached to it. And so we could go out with a kind of a sick bay, and then provide care to… to more people at once if you want to. It was well received by the local population. It was good to do.

    Host [9:43]

    Members of the UN mission worked tirelessly to improve conditions in the Caribbean country. While providing medical care to the Haitian people was a priority, they also helped rebuild critical infrastructure.

    Dominique Geoffroy [9:54]

    Many, like our building schools, helping with water for example. Sometimes we got, we got even stuff from from, from Canada, for kids. So we just went out to give, it could be balls and clothes, clothing, anything that we received from Canada that we, we could give over, we would go out and give it to who needed them.

    So you're starting looking at going back home, actually, before the end of the six months. After two months… the most difficult part of the mission is two months in, in the mission.

    So the first two months, it's always easy, because it's new. You get to do, to see new stuff, you get to know the population, you get to know the culture. And then the second and the third, fourth month, you're starting missing home. You don't call as often as it… well, we had no internet like we, we are used to have now. So it was like two phone calls a week for 20 minutes a phone call. So after three to four months, you're starting missing home, and then on the fifth and the six months, now you're counting down to go home. So it's not as bad but the third and the fourth month, they're always the most difficult. It was my third mission, as I said before, and I learned a lot from there. The mission that I, I enjoyed the most. I came back from Haiti and I was feeling good, because you feel like you helped people over there. So overall, out of my many missions, I think it was the most rewarding mission that I had in my career.

    Host [11:59]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this episode of the Faces of Freedom podcast.

    Never miss an episode by subscribing through your favorite podcasting app. You can also check out episodes from previous seasons covering a wide variety of stories from generations of Canadians. If you have a suggestion for a guest or story, reach us at Canada Remembers on Facebook and Instagram, and at Veterans Affairs Canada on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CanadaRemembers to tell us what you think. If you’re looking to dig even further into the stories of Canadian Veterans, we have a wide selection online at veterans.gc.ca. Thanks for joining! Until next time.

Interested in learning more about Dominique Geoffroy? Read his story.


Episode 2 - The Gulf War : Women on the lines of combat

Bettina Fuchs

Bettina Fuchs enlisted in the Canadian Forces in 1985, seeking a good job and professional advancement. During her 25 years of service, she was amongst the first Canadian military women to serve in combat when the Gulf war erupted.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 2

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:05]

    For over 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. All of us benefit from their incredible service and sacrifice. It is our duty to honour and remember them. They have served in many roles both at home and abroad. From peacekeeping missions around the world, to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. They have fought for freedom, helped restore peace and security, and responded to emergencies.

    They proudly served, and their bravery will never be forgotten.

    They are our Faces of Freedom.

    Music [00:37]

    Host [00:41]

    Growing up on Vancouver Island, Bettina Fuchs enjoyed spending time outside and didn’t mind getting dirty. She joined the Canadian Armed Forces at 22 years old, determined to become financially independent.

    With a love for driving and a can-do attitude, Fuchs became a MSEOP or Mobile Support Equipment Operator. Four years after joining, following a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling, the Canadian Forces opened all occupations, including combat roles, to women. The Gulf War was the first conflict where Canadian women served in combat roles. Fuchs was one of them.

    Music [01:15]

    Bettina Fuchs [01:20]

    I got married when I was 19 and had a child, and by the time I got to 21 years old…it was the 80s, 1985, around, approximately that time, my marriage fell apart. I was basically too young to start a family and get married but that’s what happened. So when I divorced, there wasn’t a lot of jobs in the early 80s for women so I decided that I would look into the military. I wanted some stability, I never wanted to rely on anybody else ever again to look after me. I wanted to do it all myself.

    Back then they give you an aptitude test and you choose. They offer you three and I was offered medic, military police, and then the MSEOP. And I decided that I would love to do the MSEOP because it’s such a huge trade, there’s so many things you can do. We drive everything from tractor trailers to buses – anything that has a job. Heavy equipment, VIP, troop carrying vehicles, aerodrome vehicles.

    When I had joined, there wasn’t really any females in the field positions yet. So, in 1989, I asked to get posted to Petawawa to the service battalion. So, I was one of the first females that they stuck in the field platoons, in Petawawa, as a driver. And… It was tough, at first, the boys didn’t want us there because it’s the man’s world out there, right? But it wasn’t very long before they were going, “Whoa, these ladies can really, you know, carry their own,” and we gained a lot of respect from them and our sister/brotherhood took off like wildfire. It was great, they loved having us there, we worked together very well. And… we could actually do some things better than the guys.

    Music [03:19]

    Host [03:23]

    After Iraq invaded Kuwait, Canada joined a coalition of more than 35 countries to liberate the small Gulf nation. More than 4,000 Canadians served in the Gulf War, helping to liberate the country of Kuwait. On 28 February 1991, one hundred hours after ground combat began, the Coalition had liberated Kuwait and a ceasefire was declared.

    Soon after, Fuchs and her team entered the country to provide help to the Canadian Embassy. But nothing could prepare her for the humanitarian crisis she was about to witness. In the days to come, the expression “giving the shirt off your back” would take on a more personal meaning.

    Music [04:00]

    Bettina Fuchs [04:04]

    My first deployment was in the Gulf War and we went to Saudi Arabia. Now, I just told you I was the driver, it’s against the law for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. They didn’t want us to drive. We ended up not being able to do our jobs for the first week we were there, until the governments, you know, talked and decided that we weren’t women, we were soldiers. So they finally allowed us to do our jobs and I drove a 50,000 liter water tanker over there. They called it the “big silver bullet”, I called it the “big silver target”. (laughter)

    But we were there with one Canadian field hospital and we set up like a MASH unit, a mobile hospital out in the middle of the desert on the Kuwaiti/Iraqi border, along with the POW camp. And it was about 17 hours after they called ceasefire, we rolled into Kuwait city to go into the Canadian ambassador’s house to make sure that it was still standing, and to help the Canadian ambassador’s aid, that had spent the whole time there during the war. So, we went there, to his aid, to bring him water and power and stuff like that. When we pulled into the city, we were pretty much the first friendly people to come in there, so we were bombarded with women and children that had been left with nothing. So, I don’t really want to go into too much detail about… because it’s not a great place, or a great experience, that anyone should have to see. But we did end up helping quite a few people there, women and children, and we did make it to the Canadian ambassador’s place. We stayed there for several weeks to make sure that things were okay.

    Music [05:56]

    Bettina Fuchs [06:02]

    Every day was different and so many people were coming and asking us for help. Women had no clothes, I ended up giving this poor lady my t-shirt and a couple pairs of pants to wear because she had nothing. And she had been abused by the armies there, and so she was in pretty rough shape by the time we got there. So it was like, people like that, that we helped out. Children that didn’t have their families anymore, that were left to roam and so, we tried to feed them while we were there and give them whatever we could to spare. You know, a lot of times we went without it ourselves and gave it to them. The worst part was having to leave because they, obviously, didn’t want us to leave. They were terrified for us to leave.

    So it was…I literally had to peel this lady off of my truck. I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life. Yeah, she was pretty devastated that we were leaving. I struggle with that still. It haunts me, still, to this day. It was so sad to see, you know, what war does because we’re not brought up that way. We’re not… You know, we’re immune to that kind of stuff. We don’t get to see that stuff in Canada.

    That experience, I won’t forget. It’s just, there’s not enough therapy to, ha ha, to help me forget that kind stuff.

    Music [07:41]

    Host [07:47]

    Despite the harsh reality of her first deployment, Fuchs served overseas again more than once during her career: Cambodia in 1992, and several times in Bosnia in the early 2000s.

    Music [07:59]

    Bettina Fuchs [08:04]

    So the atrocities in the Gulf were unbelievable. I can’t believe what they did to each other. And the same in Cambodia. Bosnia, I’d seen the after effects, I wasn’t actually there during the war. In 2000, things were pretty calm by then. So I got to see, you know, the after of what people had been struggling with, not during. ‘Cause basically, we had to go clean up the mess in the Gulf that was left. It was only 17 hours after cease fire, so it was a mess is putting it lightly.

    Music [08:43]

    Host [08:48]

    Fuchs was medically released in 2009 , after almost 25 years of service. Unfortunately, two years later she faced her biggest fight yet: breast cancer. With incredible resilience, she survived her treatments, and true to herself got ready for her next challenge: representing Canada in the Invictus Games of 2017.

    Music [09:09]

    Bettina Fuchs [09:14]

    I’m a breast cancer survivor. I lost both my breasts in 2012 and with a very aggressive cancer, I went through eight rounds of chemo, nine surgeries on my chest, and with complications, got really sick. I almost lost my life because of the chemo.

    So, Invictus Games came along at the perfect time for me. It brought me back into the land of the living, I say. And gave me the opportunity to be with all my brothers and sisters again. I have some friends that I will never let go of. I have my brothers and sisters that I will never let go of for the rest of my life. Part of me, and I’m part of them and we stick together no matter what. And I know that if I ever need anything, that they’re going to be there.

    Music [10:10]

    Host [10:15]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this episode of the Faces of Freedom podcast.

    Never miss an episode by subscribing through your favorite podcasting app. You can also check out episodes from previous seasons covering a wide variety of stories from generations of Canadians.

    If you have a suggestion for a guest or story, reach us at Canada Remembers on Facebook and Instagram, and at Veterans Affairs Canada on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CanadaRemembers to tell us what you think.

    If you’re looking to dig even further into the stories of Canadian Veterans, we have a wide selection online at veterans.gc.ca.

    Thanks for joining!

    Until next time.

Interested in learning more about Bettina Fuchs’ service? Read her story.


Episode 3 - Domestic Operations: Responding to the call of duty on Canadian soil

Josh Bowen

When it comes to extreme weather and natural disasters, Josh Bowen has seen Canada at its worst. As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for 13 years, his career took him to the front lines and in emergency command centres of the 2011 Manitoba floods, the 2013 flood in southern Alberta, and the massive Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016, to name a few.

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 3

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:5]

    For over 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. All of us benefit from their incredible service and sacrifice. It is our duty to honour and remember them. They have served in many roles both at home and abroad. From peacekeeping missions around the world, to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. They have fought for freedom, helped restore peace and security, and responded to emergencies.

    They proudly served, and their bravery will never be forgotten.

    They are our Faces of Freedom.

    Music [00:37]

    Host [00:41]

    Josh Bowen grew up in a family where global issues were discussed often and helping others was a moral obligation. He joined the Primary Reserves of the Canadian Army in April of 2004, as part of the Governor General’s Foot Guards. After completing a Master’s degree in Disaster and Emergency Management, he went on to serve 13 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. During this time, Bowen was directly involved in four disaster response operations—a cornerstone of his proud military career.

    Music [01:12]

    Josh Bowen [01:17]

    So my first job was ceremonial guard and that was just a really great experience. You know we did the parades and the drill and the ceremonial stuff in the mornings and then got to spend the entire afternoons and you know a few days off doing soldier skills. And so, it was a really good experience in terms of being an introduction to the military and the idea of we have a job to do and we have certain responsibilities and roles that we have to carry out. And then there’s a whole lot of other things in terms of skills and in terms of technical training that needed to be done and we got exposed to all of that throughout.

    And then I went to school in Toronto, leaving Ottawa after that, transferred to the Royal Regiment of Canada and spent the remainder of my undergrad and my Masters time working with the Royals in Toronto. First off as an infantry soldier and then in 2005, I was enrolled in the Regular Officer Training Plan and continued at University of Toronto and stayed attached to the Reserve Regiment. It was incredible to get the skills and the training and the summers from the regular force and then come back and get to apply everything throughout the winter and through the academic year with the reserves. And it was because of my primary reserve service that I ultimately did the Master’s program that I did.

    Music [02:45]

    Josh Bowen [02:50]

    I had the opportunity to deploy on four domestic disaster response operations, which is actually becoming pretty normal these days for members of the CAF. It’s kind of this standard experience that a lot of people are getting now, post-Afghanistan. And really, sort of being able to go and serve Canadians at home in their time of need which is a true privilege and an honour.

    Music [03:19]

    Host [03:24]

    Bowen’s first domestic deployment was in May 2011, to respond to the flooding of the Assiniboine River in southern Manitoba. The massive flood fighting efforts involved thousands of volunteers and emergency officials, including 1,800 members of the Canadian military.

    The flood displaced more than 7,000 Manitobans and affected three million hectares of farmland, requiring ranchers to move thousands of livestock. For Bowen, it was the encounters with locals—where he witnessed the true nature of Canadians—that really hit home.

    Music [03:55]

    Josh Bowen [03:59]

    Uh, so in 2011, I was with the 1st Battalion PPCLI in Edmonton. We just finished a large series of training exercises over the winter and supporting some work up training for the 3rd Battalion that was about to go over to Afghanistan. And I was a platoon commander, we got called out to go support domestic operation floods in Manitoba.

    Music [04:28]

    Josh Bowen [04:32]

    We were out dealing with, uh, reinforcing a dyke and a water diversion with sandbags. And a truck came up and some members of the community got out and they said “hello, who’s in charge?” and I was the closest person and I said “hi” at the time, “I’m Lieutenant Bowen, how can I help you?” And they said “we want to thank you for everything that you’re doing for the people of Manitoba and everything that you’re doing to save our community. We brought some food and will continue to bring food every day to support you, to say thank you. We want nothing in return. Our community is fine, but we just want to thank you for everything you’re doing to support us.” And that, that was a moment that you know, not a lot of people got to experience. The food was amazing, haha for the record. But it was Canadians saying thank you for helping other people out. And in disasters, we so often have this myth of you know everybody for themselves and it’s chaos and looting and all of those kinds of things, and that’s just Hollywood. What I’ve witnessed time and again was people coming out and helping each other, saying how can I help? Where can I help?

    Music [05:56]

    Host [06:02]

    Bowen went on to support three more domestic operations between 2013 and 2016. In 2013, he provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after major flooding in southern Alberta. Two years later, he was sent to northern Saskatchewan to support the firefighting efforts following intense wildfires.

    When natural disasters strike without notice, the Canadian Armed Forces is able to provide a great deal of support and expertise very quickly. Bowen’s final major domestic deployment was no exception. In 2016, he was sent to Alberta, when the province asked for military assistance evacuating residents threatened by dangerous wildfires near Fort McMurray.

    The CAF deployed 65 service members, five helicopters and one Hercules aircraft. During the operation, they carried over 350 evacuees to safety and flew firefighters and cargo in and out of the affected area.

    Music [07:00]

    Josh Bowen [07:05]

    The morning of May 3, 2016, as far as we knew, everything was under control and by the afternoon there was a mandatory evacuation order for 90,000 people. It was a matter of getting in and supporting and being able to figure out how to coordinate and what assets we could bring from the CAF to be able to support and what was the total extent. So that really became about building relationships and building trust very quickly and as quickly as possible to be able to support and to be able to move forward and truly assist the people that were that had been evacuated from Fort Mac. And then being able to support bringing in firefighters and supporting some of the First Nations that were north of Fort Mac who, because they’re fly-in communities... so we did a whole bunch of airlift to be able to support that, which again was never something that I thought we’d have to do in Canada. But it’s a unique capability that the military brings, and it’s something that you know we’ve learned overseas and have learned here in terms of how to conduct humanitarian relief.

    And so it was just an absolute incredible experience to be able to take the things that I’ve learned in the military about how do we move convoys through dangerous areas, how do we provide aerial support and overwatch to make sure that any kind of hazard is not approaching or any threat is not approaching. And we applied some similar principles to be able to make sure that it was safe to get the 15,000 people who evacuated north of the city to drive through it and south while the wildfire was still going on. So flying a helicopter over top of the RCMP moving people through the town just so we could have good situational awareness and eyes on the wildfire meant that the province was able to get everybody safely out of danger and through the community.

    Music [09:12]

    Host [09:18]

    Now released from the military, Josh Bowen looks back on his time in uniform fondly, attributing much of his success—and driving force—to the people he met along the way.

    Music [09:27]

    Josh Bowen [09:33]

    I had a commanding officer once say, “if in everything you do here, you relentlessly pursue excellence, you will meet the minimum standard to be part of this team.” And that was just such an incredible empowering comment and direction and so, in so many ways it’s learning ‘How can I be better, how can I learn from whatever I’ve done and take every opportunity to learn as much as I possibly can?’ I was really lucky in my career to be able to work with some incredible leaders at all levels. And I believe the definition of leader should be: people choose to follow you. And this means that leader isn’t necessarily based on rank or title. I’ve had soldiers who I’ve chosen to follow and they’ve taught me new things throughout my career that I never would have learned if I had been stuck on ‘leadership as a privilege of rank’ mentality. And in many ways, I’d say that I learned more about leading from the teams that I served with than I ever did at any career course. The courses give me the framework for how to plan and conduct operations and execute tactical skills, but leadership is all about people. And I was really lucky to have mentors and guides that were both senior and junior to me to shape who I am and how I lead even after I’ve left the military. So in many ways, being able to give back and to continue to serve and share what so many people have taught me over the years. All these little tidbits and tricks, and thoughts and ideas and share that is really what drives me forward.

    Music [11:44]

    Host [11:51]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this episode of the Faces of Freedom podcast.

    Never miss an episode by subscribing through your favorite podcasting app. You can also check out episodes from previous seasons covering a wide variety of stories from generations of Canadians. If you have a suggestion for a guest or story, reach us at Canada Remembers on Facebook and Instagram, and at Veterans Affairs Canada on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CanadaRemembers to tell us what you think. If you’re looking to dig even further into the stories of Canadian Veterans, we have a wide selection online at veterans.gc.ca.

    Thanks for joining!

    Until next time.

Interested in learning more about Josh Bowen’s service and what he’s doing now? Read his story.


Episode 4 - Trauma, resilience and a return to Afghanistan

Simon Mailloux

Simon Mailloux proves that he is not easily broken. What some might see as a career-ending injury, Mailloux saw as an opportunity to redefine himself and his place in the Canadian Armed Forces

  • Transcript of podcast - Episode 4

    Music [00:00]

    Host [00:05]

    For over 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. All of us benefit from their incredible service and sacrifice. It is our duty to honour and remember them. They have served in many roles both at home and abroad. From peacekeeping missions around the world, to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. They have fought for freedom, helped restore peace and security, and responded to emergencies.

    They proudly served, and their bravery will never be forgotten.

    They are our Faces of Freedom.

    Music [00:37]

    Host [00:41]

    Simon Mailloux was drawn to the military from a very young age. He was so eager to serve that he tried joining the air cadets at age eleven and was told he had to wait another year. His experience with them confirmed his desire to eventually serve his country. After finishing high school in July 2001, he was accepted to the College Militaire Royal in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, officially joining the Canadian Armed Forces. This would be the beginning of a long career with many challenges and triumphs.

    Content warning [01:14]

    The following podcast contains accounts and descriptions that some viewers may find troubling. Listener discretion is advised.

    Music [01:22]

    Simon Mailloux [01:26]

    It always had been a dream of mine, of course, to find this space for me to grow. Some people find the military to be some sort of brace that would prevent them from being creative or finding their space to be comfortable. For me, it was the contrary. That kind of formative years were very helpful in getting, finding my footing, finding my imagination, finding how my leadership could grow and you know develop itself. So the army became more of an infostructure, something I could build on as oppose to something that was really restraining me. Being a Quebecer I’ve also been very fascinated by the Royal 22nd Regiment, the Van Doos. Um, it’s a well known regiment and being from Quebec City, I saw them everywhere and you know, I wanted to be one of them. It was a kind of a childhood dream as well to get there so joining in the infantry was a no brainer. It’s also, you know, you see them deployed around the world, you saw them in the news, you saw them doing all that stuff so it was encouraging and I wanted to be part of that.”

    Music [02:34]

    Host [02:39]

    After the terrorist attacks in the United States by al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001, Canada pledged its full support and contributed forces to the international fight against terrorism.

    More than 40,000 Canadians would go on to serve in the Afghanistan theatre of operations--the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since the Second World War.

    Six years into his military career, Simon Mailloux was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time.

    Music [03:09]

    Simon Mailloux [03:13]

    “It’s a change of culture as far away from us as possible. They’re very big believers in Islam but they also have a different culture, different way of life and you’ve got to adapt to that. But not to say that they don’t have a super interesting culture. Super like…Their food is delicious, they have some poetry, they have some music, but it’s very, very different than ours. So for us to comprehend that it takes a while. Also, Kandahar City, which was the first city we saw coming out of the base, is a million people in size. It’s a huge city, it’s sprawling but it doesn’t go up, it just sprawls around. So culturally, a very different country to be in.

    Music [3:55]

    Simon Mailloux [3:59]

    “To this day, I still remember the eyes of the kids, um, and I have a daughter now who is eight, um, but she doesn’t have the same eyes. The kids over there were five, six, seven years old and they looked like they were old. Their face was old and their eyes were old. They’ve seen stuff that they shouldn’t have seen at their age.

    So I saw them growing up so fast and their prospects of living were very, very harsh, very difficult. So you can’t, you cannot judge them for the way they behave or the way they are. They live in very different conditions than we are. That being said, clearly the rights of women over there are trampled and are difficult to keep alive and it’s going to be a constant struggle. But yeah, it is difficult to see these things on a daily basis from a Canadian who probably comes from a society that’s one of the richest we can have in terms of human rights. To go to that kind of darker images sometimes it was difficult and we had to talk about it a lot.

    Music [5:05]

    Simon Mailloux [5:10]

    “There were tougher moments, fights, ambushes. But usually our soldiers are so good, we managed just quite well and we had overpower in the air [inaudible] The only way they could hurt us and hit us very badly was through IEDs. And they did that once, I did lose a soldier, one of my drivers, Simon Longtin, a corporal, to an IED event followed by an ambush that we fought off. He unfortunately died during the event.  

    Music [05:41]

     Host [05:46]

    While he faced many obstacles and challenges in Afghanistan, nothing could prepare him for what would happen next.

    Music [05:52]

    Simon Mailloux [05:57]

    I was in another operation, a night operation, and that’s when my vehicle hit an IED, uhh, where um most of the people in the back were either heavily injured or died during the event. So following that, I lost two soldiers, my signaler Michel Lévesque, and my medic, Nicolas Beauchamp and our Afghan interpreter and other soldiers that were quite heavily injured. Um, which resulted in our evacuation and also two amputations for some of us.”

    So the evacuation process, the line for us was from the FOB forwards where there was a doctor there to patch us up quickly. Blackhawk helicopter evacuation back to Kandahar Air Field where there is a Role 3 which is basically a field hospital there, um. They kept us alive there, they put veins to try to save my leg. The other soldiers that were with me as well got pretty much, you know. We stayed there for about four to five days ready to be evacuated through back to Landstuhl in Germany which is a US hospital that was built during the Cold War to absorb all of the casualties that were to be expected fighting the Soviets. So it’s a giant hospital, near an airport. So it’s quite well prepared for what was to come which was all the wounded for Afghanistan and Iraq.

    That’s where they had to do the amputation. Um, so on my left leg, through the knee and to be honest it only occurred to me by bits and pieces. I woke up and my memory was kind of in puzzle pieces. I had to put things back together. I had no idea where I was when I woke up.

    Music [07:51]

    Host [07:57]

    He returned to Canada to begin a difficult rehabilitation and adjust to life with a prosthesis. But as far as he was concerned, his business in Afghanistan was unfinished.

    Music [08:07]

    Simon Mailloux [08:12]

    The mission wasn’t over, so the guys were still there and they were still fighting. There were Van Doos on the field doing the job and Canadians in danger over there so the mission wasn’t over. Part of it was I wanted to kind of show it that kind of prove to myself that I was able to do it and there was no better proof. No better fitness test than going back in the box and fighting it out. Nobody can argue after that that you can’t do the job right?”

    If you look at IEDs, they’re not weapons of destruction so much as weapons of fear, right. What they’re trying to do there, yes they cause casualties and some material losses and things like that, don’t get me wrong. But the main weapon it instills on our troops is fear. They don’t want to go out, they don’t want to step there, they don’t know where it is. It’s like a minefield. You know you’re in one, where do you walk, you don’t know. You don’t move, you stay there. That’s what they’re trying to do with an IED. Um, so coming back from it, even though you can wound us, you know, give us a bit of time and we’ll pack up again and we’ll get back in the box. Yes, it is defeating what they were trying to do to us. Not only physically, but also mentally—you don’t break a Canadian soldier that way.”

    For me, it was a victory just to get back, land that foot, that first prosthetic foot on Kandahar Air Field in November of ’09 which is exactly 24 months later, it was a victory for me.”

    Music [09:44]

    Host [9:48]

    Mailloux continues to proudly serve today.

    As he thinks about the future for his daughter, he has a simple message for all Canadians…

    Simon Mailloux [9:56]

    All we ask for is not glory and medals, what we ask for is just know that when our soldier make the sacrifice, you know, just remember us. You know, je me souviens is the motto of my regiment. You know, the memory you carry of us, that’s all it is for us”

    Music [10:18]

    Host [10:27]

    And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to this episode of the Faces of Freedom podcast.

    Never miss an episode by subscribing through your favorite podcasting app. You can also check out episodes from previous seasons covering a wide variety of stories from generations of Canadians. If you have a suggestion for a guest or story, reach us at Canada Remembers on Facebook and Instagram, and at Veterans Affairs Canada on Twitter. Use the hashtag #CanadaRemembers to tell us what you think. If you’re looking to dig even further into the stories of Canadian Veterans, we have a wide selection online at veterans.gc.ca.

    Thanks for joining!

    Until next time.

Interested in learning more about Simon Mailloux? Read his They proudly served profile.

Would you like to hear more? Check out our previous seasons of the Faces of Freedom podcast.

Date modified: