Vigil at St. John's War Memorial highlights struggles faced by veterans
Two veterans hoping to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by many former military members in this country held a cold, wet vigil for 24 hours at the War Memorial in St. John's this past weekend.
Mark Gauci and Don Hookey endured chilly temperatures and consistent rain in order to show support for other veterans, and bring attention to an organization called VETS Canada, a non-profit group formed to help veterans who struggle with the move from military service to civilian life.
Both men served lengthy careers with the Canadian Forces, and both served in Afghanistan during Canada's long military mission in that troubled country.
They said many military members face hardship once they leave the service, whether it be the loss of camaraderie, financial difficulties, substance abuse and the impacts of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
They encouraged those in need to make contact with VETS Canada through the group's website, http://vetscanada.org/.
They also invited veterans to get involved with the group.
"You know, despite having helped hundreds of veterans, there are still hundreds, possibly thousands more still on the streets of Canada either homeless and or in distress," said Gauci.
Hookey is coping with PTSD, but is thankful for the support he has received.
"I transitioned pretty hard back into civilian life. I'm still in the transitioning process. So I'm hoping my experience with this can possibly help somebody else," said Hookey.
Gauci said many vets aren't getting the help they need.
He said the experience at the War Memorial was "not a pleasant one," but he hopes it draws attention to the fact that many veterans struggle to keep a roof over their heads.