Quebec soldier Cpl. Alain Lacasse hadn't shown any outward signs of distress before taking his own life this week, his best friend Dominic April says.
His father, Pierre April, told CBC News his son and Lacasse, 44, were both big fans of Harley Davidson motorcycles and were in the midst of planning a summer motorcycle trip.
“He’s very, very shocked,” April said of his son. “He cannot understand what’s happening.”
Lacasse was found dead in his home in Valcartier, Que., on Monday.
A study for the Canadian Armed Forces released last year found the following:
- From 1995 to 2012 there has been no statistically significant change in male CF suicide rates.
- The rate of suicide when standardized for age and sex is lower than that of the general Canadian population.
- History of deployment is not a risk factor for suicide in the Canadian Forces.
He enlisted in the Canadian military in 1996 and had served with the Royal 22nd Regiment (also known as the Van Doos) on missions in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Lacasse’s death comes three months after Master Cpl. Sylvain Lelièvre committed suicide in his Valcartier home.
Another soldier, Master Cpl. Tyson Washburn, was found dead on Saturday, March 15. Officials aren't releasing details about his death, but CBC News has learned the 37-year-old appears to have taken his own life.
Plea for help
Marc Perreault, a 45-year-old soldier at Valcartier, made an impassioned plea via YouTube yesterday begging his current and former soldiers to seek help.
Perreault has spent more than half of his life in the armed forces, having served in Haiti, Croatia, Bosnia and twice in Afghanistan. With tears in his eyes, he offered his phone number to anyone who needed to talk about their experiences but who didn’t have a friend to talk to.
April said it’s not usually obvious from the outside that soldiers who return home from duty are experiencing difficulty.
“They don’t show us. It’s when they are alone, that’s when they think about it and they decide to put an end to it and that’s it,” he said.
April’s son Dominic is a recently retired soldier who also served with the Van Doos.
He said it’s the hidden aspect of post-war depression that cause him and his wife to be concerned for their own son.
“When you’re a father or a mother of one of those guys, it’s scary. It’s very scary. Every time the phone rings, we don’t know,” April said.
He echoed Perreault’s sentiment with a message for his son.
“I hope that he will stay strong, that he will talk to everybody he knows about it,” April said.
Lacasse had hard time
Lacasse reportedly had a very difficult time on his last tour in Afghanistan.
A Sorel-Tracy, Que., newspaper conducted an interview with Lacasse, originally from the region, while he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2008. He spoke candidly about his troubled tour in the Middle East.
He said two of his friends were crushed by a light armoured vehicle when it fell into a 20-foot-deep ravine. He said they had entered the Canadian military at the same time as him.
The Les 2 Rives–La Voix newspaper quoted him as saying he was “disappointed because this is not what I expected when I agreed to participate in the mission. The army, it’s my whole life, but I am disappointed to see that we are in an endless tunnel. We are trying to get out of the tunnel, but corruption makes you not able to change much.”
April, who knew Lacasse, said many of the soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan didn’t really know why they were there.
“It’s very hard for those guys to really understand what’s going on,” April said. “It’s not easy to be a soldier in a war you don’t understand.”
He said that lack of understanding leads to a considerable amount of distress once they return home.
“When they come back they have to ask themselves why we went there. It’s going on in their minds all the time and there’s nobody to help them. They’re left alone by themselves and that’s the big problem,” April said.
Lacasse and Washburn's deaths come as Canada ends its 12-year mission in Afghanistan.
Ninety-three soldiers returned home to Canada yesterday.