Life after the military: A retired solider's story

For the past 31 years, Bill Cameron's life has been spent serving our country amongst a band of brothers he calls family, but this year, for the first time in decades Cameron will be spending Nov. 11 as a veteran who is paying tribute the fallen soldiers he once served alongside.

Bill Cameron retired in March 2017 after serving 31 years in the miltary

Bill Cameron recently retired from the service in March 2017 with nine medals. (Bill Cameron )
Bill Cameron spent 31 years in the military. He's retired now, but dealing with PTSD. This year he'll be marking Remembrance Day with a ride on a very special custom motorcycle. 5:41

For the past 31 years, Bill Cameron's life has been spent serving our country amongst a band of brothers he calls family, but this year, for the first time in decades Cameron will be spending Nov. 11 as a veteran paying tribute to the fallen soldiers he once served alongside.

Risking his life in war-zones like Bosnia and Afghanistan, the recently retired solider said he left the military in March of 2017 due to injuries he's suffered over time — emotionally, physically and mentally.

Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2014, Cameron said "it took him some time to...really deal with it."

"We served over in Afghanistan and...I came back to Canada in 2008 after my tour of duty and things were just not right and I had been suffering prior to with nightmares and stuff like that," Cameron recalled, "but I always thought I should just soldier on."
Cameron said he was in the military for 31 years and served in places like Bosnia and Afghanistan. (Bill Cameron)

Born in Thunder Bay, Ont. Cameron said he joined the military at the age of 18 when jobs were hard to come by and joining the service was something not uncommon. He said when he retired from the service, he decided to settle in Victoria, B.C to be near his children.

After years in service, Cameron said he was able to move up the ranks and soon be in charge of his own troops, which in turn made it difficult for Cameron to accept his diagnosis.

"You have to be the one that's stronger than everybody else, so my mentality was to soldier on. [And] it took me up until 2014 where I just had to talk to somebody...[because] I wasn't the same person anymore," Cameron said.

Life after the service

"The thing that scared me the most was not being a part of something anymore and not having a reason to get up in the morning," said the retired veteran.

It wasn't until months later that Cameron finally got back on his feet and realized that "life on the other side isn't so bad."

But he credits much of his success to his motorcycle.
Cameron says his motorcycle is a part of him now. He says the feeling of freedom is something he can't describe. (Bill Cameron )

Having been a fan of the television show, American Chopper, Cameron said he always dreamed of owning his own motorcycle. Then one day, with no motorcycle license or experience, Cameron walked into the Harley Davidson store in Victoria, B.C. and instantly knew what his next decision should be.

"I sat on a bunch of bikes and I sat on a Dyna Wide Glide and it was probably the best experience I had; I just felt like it needed to be mine, so I bought it!"

From that point on Cameron has not only felt the feeling of brotherhood and a sense of belonging, but for the first time in years, he was able to forget about his PTSD.

"Especially brings me back to when I was a kid growing up in Thunder Bay" living on Strathcona Avenue and smelling people's fireplaces, Cameron recalled.

A tribute to the fallen soliders

Today Cameron said the "the bike is a part of [him]," and something "he will never, ever let go."

With over three decades of experience in the service, Cameron decided to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers through a unique design on his motorcycle.

"In the front fender we have our fallen soldiers...and then the back fender has our fallen being carried out on a stretcher from the training area," Cameron said.
Cameron custom designed his motorcycle to pay tribute to his 31 years in service. (Bill Cameron)

"There's nine poppies that are on the tank and those nine poppies are for every medal I've received while i served in the military."

This year, for Cameron's first Remembrance Day as a civilian since his time in service, he said he and a few fellow riders will be riding their bikes from the legion to the cenotaph in Langford, B.C. to "pay tribute and celebrate life."