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Master Corporal (Ret’d) Victoria “Vickie” Lanthier

Although she broke several bones in her face during a tank accident, Victoria “Vickie” Lanthier is smiling. Despite the many obstacles and trauma she faced during her military career, she’s developed healthy coping mechanisms that have kept her mentally and physically fit.

Ottawa, Ontario

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Afghanistan East Timor
Senegal

Joined

1997

Key operational experiences

  • SkyHawks (2002)

Deployments

  • East Timor, 1999
  • Afghanistan 2003, 2009-10
  • Senegal

You’ll often hear Veterans say they joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) because they were drawn to the idea of serving their country or because they were inspired by family members. Vickie Lanthier did it to challenge her little brother.

“He came home as he had just joined Cadets and bragged that he got to go shooting. How dare he!” remembers Lanthier. “I couldn’t let my little brother do something more than me! So I joined Cadets.”

Although her brother quit after just two weeks, she kept with it and then enrolled in the CAF in 1997. It was the beginning of a 14-year career, half of which was spent in the Reserves before she transitioned into the Regular Force in 2004.

Lanthier says that coming from a small town, the military was seen as a big institution where you could be anything you wanted to be. “It was the autonomy really that attracted me, which is the opposite of what people think of the military. You can go from being to the infantry to being a photographer, or go fly planes” she says.

After two years as a Reserve radio operator, she got an opportunity to deploy overseas. “So when East Timor came up, it was an opportunity to go somewhere new, that no one had ever heard of – this unique experience. I did everything so that they would pick me!”

“So when East Timor came up, it was an opportunity to go somewhere new, that no one had ever heard of – this unique experience.”
Lanthier with a Timorese child during her deployment.

Lanthier with a Timorese child during her deployment.

A 1999 UN-supervised referendum on independence caused considerable unrest in East Timor. Between 1999 and 2001, more than 650 Canadians joined Australian forces to restore peace and security, and provide humanitarian aid.

Lanthier admits that she didn’t know what she was getting into by heading somewhere so far from home. She had little knowledge of what to expect. “Was it hostile? What are we going as? […] It was my first time in a strange country, first time I had travelled internationally, my first deployment, and I’m just bawling… and told no one,” she says.

Luckily, the situation on the ground was manageable and she spent her days working on the satellite and HF radios at headquarters. One day, Lanthier and three of her comrades were asked to drop something off for the battalion at a location hours away. Although the others laughed at her fully packed bag for their little day trip, that bag would prove to be a lifesaver.

While driving back to headquarters, the four found themselves at the scene of a terrible accident – a truck carrying 50 people had lost its brakes and gone over a cliff. “When we first came upon it, we couldn’t figure out what was going on. One of the boys noticed more people and tire tracks.” Lanthier and her team triaged and provided first aid to the injured. They ended up using all the 'extras' she packed.

Although two people died of their injuries, her and her comrades’ actions helped save lives that day. “We did pretty good,” she says. “This is a good example of how you’re trained in repetition in the Army. None of us were medics. We just did our thing. East Timor really set the stage for what was to come. It was a lot of growth and learning.”

“I’m fortunate enough. I’m a big fan of therapy, and I’m a big fan of preventative therapy.”

After returning from East Timor, she deployed three more times: once to Senegal and twice to Afghanistan, including as part of one the deadliest rotations.

Despite injuries to her face from a tank accident during training, and experiencing multiple traumas while serving abroad, Lanthier does not live with PTSD. “I’m fortunate enough. I’m a big fan of therapy, and I’m a big fan of preventative therapy”. She developed the habit of checking in with a psychologist after a traumatic event, even when she thought she was fine: “They can tell me when to leave.”

Since releasing in 2011, she has channelled her passion for adventure into a website called Girl Gone Good, where she shares hiking and healthy living advice. “The aspect of wellness, trauma, mental health and nature, and being outdoors and hiking… Those are aspects that obviously, I resonate with, and I just want everyone to know all the possibilities.”

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


Where they served


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