Saving Ryan's medals: Military decorations mistakenly tossed in trash

Though a local business has offered a $5,000 reward for their recovery, it's unlikely a veteran will recover his military decorations after they were sent to a landfill in October.

Military commendations tossed to curb during garage clean-out in October

Dave Ryan sits in a living room, which is decorated with mementos of 24 years as a member of the Canadian Forces. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A Canadian Forces veteran from Gatineau, Que., has likely lost his war medals for good after they were accidentally tossed in the trash.

Dave Ryan had set aside lapel and beret pins, including from his time in basic training, a decorative Garrison buckle, and decorations for service with United Nations peacekeeping missions and the war in Afghanistan to be mounted in a display case.

Instead, Ryan says the bag containing 24 years of military service was mistakenly taken away as trash on Oct. 21 amid some confusion while cleaning out the garage at his home

He only discovered the loss while preparing his military uniform ahead of Remembrance Day. 

"In the bag was everything from 1973 on," said Ryan, who was left in shock.

Dave Ryan was preparing to mount these medals, alongside other military decorations, in a display box. (Submitted by Dave Ryan)

Reissues are possible

It appears reissues from the Honours and Recognition Directorate at the Department of National Defence are possible, but like most soldiers Ryan has a sentimental attachment to the commendations he earned.

The loss of so much personal military history has also compounded a difficult year for the 68-year-old, who made a career out of servicing and maintaining the complex optical and electrical circuits used in weaponry.

Ryan was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in January, which left him hospitalized.

"I had a terrible terrible temper, and that was part of the PTSD," he said. "I mean, I didn't even like me."

For the past 10 months, with help from Ste. Anne's Hospital for veterans located in Montreal, Ryan has worked hard on managing his anger.

One of the exercises assigned to patients was the preparation of a display box of military medals, which Ryan had yet to complete. And the revelation that his wartime decorations had been mistakenly tossed was a major test amid this ongoing work.

"I went into a complete panic attack," he said.

WATCH | War medals mistakenly tossed during garage cleanout now subject of $5K reward

War medals mistakenly tossed during garage cleanout now subject of $5K reward

2 years ago
Duration 1:43
Canadian Forces veteran Dave Ryan had set aside medals from his 24-year military career in a bag that he believes was mistakenly thrown out, leaving him devastated by the loss. But unbeknownst to him, Jana Mitchell, founder of Wheels for the Wise, has offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who can return the medals to him.

Company puts up $5K reward

"We know how much these medals mean," said Jana Mitchell, founder of Wheels for the Wise, an Ottawa company that provides medical transportation for veterans and seniors.

When Mitchell learned of Ryan's story, her company put up a reward of $5,000 for the retrievel of the medals, though it's unlikely Ryan's medals will be found.

After the garage clutter was hauled away by Pro Ramasse, the load was dumped at a waste sorting facility near the airport at Gatineau's eastern edge.

Jana Mitchell's company Wheels for the Wise provides medical transportation for veterans and seniors, and has offered a $5,000 reward for the recovery of Ryan's medals. (Stu Mills/CBC)

At LGL Globe Inc., president René Gervais expressed sadness at Ryan's loss, but explained his company separates out building materials, and sends six truckloads of household waste further east each day.

By now, Gervais said, Ryan's decorations could be several metres deep in a Lachute, Que., landfill.

This loss has been a test of the soldier's tender new stoicism, and Ryan said he's taking his recent composure as a possible sign of his emotional growth.

"My mantra now is, 'Is it worth getting mad about? Is it worth getting into an argument about?'"

A load of garbage from Ryan's home was delivered to LGL Globe where it was sorted and then sent on to a larger landfill in Lachute, Que. (Stu Mills/CBC)