An Ottawa veteran deployed to Bosnia in 1993, who has been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder ever since, says a train trip through the Rocky Mountains was a life-changing, healing experience.
Paul Bornn, a registered nurse who also worked as weapons technician, was deployed to Bosnia for six months with the United Nations.
"The snipers were a constant threat that you very quickly learned about," Bornn said. "You would hear it constantly ... but then you learned how to recognize when you were actually being shot at, or when you were being shelled. And you just learned to tune out the rest of the noise.
"The sounds of fighting were always sort of in the background all the time. It was just something you got used to ... And you just lived that way."
'A lot of frustration developed'
Three months in, Bornn said a lot of the "lofty ideas" of helping people that he had travelled to Bosnia with were gone. He said the warring factions didn't want help, and that civilians would sometimes throw rocks at them.
Bornn said that other times, he couldn't help people who needed it. People would set up camps along the roads in areas where all the infrastructure had been destroyed and food was scarce.
"They wanted the ration packs, the food ... So whatever you had that you could spare you would toss out at them. Of course it was never really enough," he said.
"I think it was a lot of frustration that developed."
When Bornn came home he noticed changes in his everyday life. He said the forces gave out pamphlets on the warning signs for shell shock, but he didn't think he had it. He hadn't even heard of PTSD.
"You start getting some flashbacks, and you get bad dreams, you wonder why you're angry for no particular reason," he said. "Trouble sleeping."
Group of veterans selected in October
Bornn said he medicated himself with alcohol. Thirteen years later, he was diagnosed with PTSD. Remembrance Day and the lead-up to it "is always a trigger," he said.
Bornn was part of a group of veterans from around the world selected in October to take a train trip.
The Rocky Mountaineer trip started in Vancouver and ended in Calgary.
Bornn said the camaraderie on the train was great, that relating with other veterans who suffered trauma helps his healing.
"We all just connected immediately with each other," he said. "It's easy when you all speak the same language. There's not a lot of need to explain anything. You just understand."