Manitoba

'Nobody cares': Soldier feels abandoned 3 years after last Afghanistan tour

The day after Cpl. Tyler Liebenau returned from Afghanistan, he mistakenly held his father at knifepoint. Liebenau, 30, still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder three years after his final tour with the Armed Forces.

'Nobody's witnessed what we witnessed. Nobody's lived what we lived,' Cpl. Tyler Liebenau says

Tyler Liebenau says his daughter has helped him be more positive as he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Stefanie Lasuik)

The day after Cpl. Tyler Liebenau returned from Afghanistan, he mistakenly held his father at knifepoint. 

Liebenau, 30, still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder three years after his final tour with the Armed Forces.

The condition is chronic in up to 10 per cent of war zone veterans, Veterans Affairs Canada says — but support for former soldiers isn't adequate, Liebenau said.

"Nobody understands. Nobody's witnessed what we witnessed. Nobody's lived what we lived," he said.

Cpl. Tyler Liebenau learned to sleep with a knife under his pillow in Afghanistan. He pulled it out when his father woke him up after his first night at home. (Courtesy of Tyler Liebenau)
Liebenau's first night home after his first tour, he went to bed with his knife under his pillow, as he had done every night in Afghanistan. Liebenau slept for 18 hours before his dad decided to go into his room and wake him. 

Thinking he was still in Afghanistan, Liebenau grabbed his dad and his knife. His dad cried out to convince his son that he was home, that he was safe. Liebenau released him as he snapped out of it. He felt terrible. 

A few minutes later, Liebenau went to the kitchen to apologize to his dad.

"I was trying to talk to him. He just wouldn't talk to me. All [of a] sudden he just started tearing up," said Liebenau. 

Anyone who hasn't been in the line of fire, who hasn't watched friends and innocent children die or who hasn't slept with a knife doesn't understand, he said.

Resources lacking, Liebenau says

Liebenau doesn't want his PTSD to continue to affect him and his family, but he doesn't feel supported by the military or the country he served. 

"Nobody checks up on me. Nobody cares. We went to debriefing for a few days after our tour, but social workers don't understand what it's like there," he said. 

There's one Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Winnipeg. Veterans Affairs Canada funds the clinic to assess and treat veterans, current Armed Forces members and RCMP. 

Veterans seeking treatment must get a referral from Veterans Affairs Canada. If their request for referral is accepted, the veteran can then set up an appointment with the clinic.

About 18 months ago, Liebenau met with a psychologist at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic but didn't feel the sessions would help him. 

"How can you sit there and talk about it when the other person you're talking to has no idea what you're talking about?" he said.

He didn't go back.

In an emailed statement, Veterans Affairs Canada said they follow up with veterans to ensure they're adjusting to civilian life. 

Liebenau got a call from the organization 2½ years ago and hasn't heard from them since, he said. 

Effects of war linger

Liebenau continues to have vivid combat dreams. 

"There'd be times, I'd still be in combat mode, and I'd roll over and [my fiancé would] take an elbow in the face or a fist to the gut," he said. 

Christine Allasopp, Liebenau's fiancé, is afraid his dreams will become daydreams, and eventually become his reality. Since Liebanau is protective of the couple's baby, Allasopp is worried he'll lose it on a boyfriend in his young daughter's future.

Darlene, Liebenau's mom, has also seen his anger.

When he was home from his first tour, Liebenau was scared by a neighbourhood kid shooting off fireworks. To him, it sounded like bombs going off. 

"He just went ballistic and yelled at this kid," said his mom — behaviour she'd never seen from him before.

Despite the damage, she's grateful he's back home.

"His buddies didn't come home," she said, choking back tears.


This is one in a series of stories written for CBC Manitoba by Red River College journalism students that looks at ways conflict abroad has shaped Winnipeg.

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