William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

SHELL SHOCK

After WW2 down on Somerset Street
An under bridge group every day they would meet
My Mom said they suffered very much like my Dad
Because of the bullets their nerves they were bad

My dad he had children and he had a wife
She made him stop drinking and clean up his life
The veterans who lived down by the rail track
Delivered National ad flyers when they came back

They all drank cheap wine to cover their fear
They spent their ad their money on spirits and beer
Some lay by the tracks and soon they were dead
Others survived and by my Mother were fed

She made extra stew – and for them the rosary we said
Because we had a big family we received day old bread
Mom shared food with the veterans who suffered from fright
They shook and they trembled and they died in the night

There was no social assistance – there were no food banks
But I heard those ex soldiers to my Mom whisper thanks!
A couple of those old guys they joined the AA
And they attended her funeral when she passed away

Long before we had free meds to treat PTSD ills
Soldiers self medicated on beer wine and pills
Today we are fortunate because like never before
We have wonderful medical treatment for the soldiers of war

It’s got a new name now – they call it Operational Stress
It’s the same old shell shock – when one’s minds in a mess
One has to thank the good folks down at Ottawa’s DND
Who are treating these injuries through our own VAC

Author’s Note: This poem was inspired by the TIMES COLONIST article of May 8, 2008 by Norma Greenaway (reproduced below)

The house at 1053 Somerset Street West is still there (it is now an oriental soup kitchen) – situated just across the street from the Esprit de Corps Magazine Office! The lumberyards and railway tracks where the National Advertiser crew slept, is now a housing development. Somerset Street Bridge is still there but I doubt if any shell-shocked WW2 soldiers still live under it. Two of the survivors who joined AA and got regular Government jobs attended Veronica Willbond’s funeral up at St Mary’s church when she passed away. The church is still there, between Bayswater and Breezehill – it is now adjacent to the new Queen’s Way. This writer delivered the Ottawa Citizen from Young Street to the Lebreton Flats by balloon tyre bike in summer and toboggan in winter. The hookers in the walk-ups of the Lebreton Flats Hotels gave the best tips – especially at Christmas

AFGHANISTAN MISSION LEAVES MARK ON MANY

At least 1,500 have suffered stress conditions related to service, Defence Department says

NORMA GREENAWAY
Calmest News Service

OTTAWA – At least 1,500 of the 20,000 men and women who have served in the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan since 2001 have suffered from stress conditions related to their service, including post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression or addiction, according to federal government figures released yesterday.

The Department of National Defence provided the figures as Greg Thompson, the federal minister of Veteran Affairs, announced the planned creation of a clinic in Ottawa for servicemen and women struggling with a range of “mental injuries. “

The Ottawa clinic, which is expected to treat between 100 and 150 clients annually after it opens at the end of the year, is one of several planned across the country. Plans for similar facilities were recently introduced in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Thompson pointed to the increasing number of current and former servicemen and women seeking help for mental stress, along with the creation of the clinics, as signs of a more progressive attitude toward mental illness within the military.

Making the announcement at the Royal Ottawa Health Centre, where the clinic will be located, Thompson said no effort should be spared to treat those who have suffered “seal and tragic psychological” injuries.

“There are no quick fixes, no easy cures and no pill,” he said.

Thompson said the number of veterans with operational stress injuries has risen to 11,000 from 3,500 five years ago. Officials said the tally includes those who served in Rwanda, Somalia and other recent war zones, as well as some who fought in the Second World War and in the Korean conflict.
Thompson attributed much of the almost threefold increase to early detection; something that he said has allowed many men and women to remain within the military and to function well.

“What we’re attempting to do is erase the stigma that we attach to this, and the shame that’s attached to it. Because, you know, we’ll accept a broken arm or a leg or bullets and bombs, but somehow we fail [in the mental health area]. And, of course, we’ve masked that over the years with shell shock or battle fatigue, using any other name but mental injury.”

Raymond Lalonde, director of the National Centre for Operational Stress Injuries, said 700 Veteran Affairs clients who served in Afghanistan have been approved for a disability claim on grounds they suffer an operational stress injury, a number that includes about 300 who are still serving with the military.

However, Lalonde said he could not say how many, if any, of those overlapped with the Defence Department tally of 1,500.