So said Chief of Defense Staff General Tom Lawson. He described the suicides of 9 veterans in November 2013 as ‘troubling’ and went on to say that what was at the root of all these suicides was the ‘honour’ bestowed upon the act by mental health advocates (I’m guessing he was referring to the likes of me), and the way we wrap our arms around those veterans with mental health challenges was encouraging them to… To what exactly? I’m not entirely certain. Get better? Not die? He wasn’t clear on that point after ‘it’s all very troubling’ I think he ran out of things to say or room in his mouth for any more feet.
Well. Slap that man on the back and give him a candy.
He probably has lunch with Mike McCormack (President of Toronto Police Association) and Deputy Chief Mike Federico (Toronto Police), both have said that there is no bloody way Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson will ever be honoured because only the weak commit suicide. Only the selfish. It just isn’t honourable. No doubt all three would like to tan my wee behind and kick me into the Atlantic for calling them out on it.
The ocean breeze caresses my cheek gently, quietly. There is a sense of peace and serenity in the heart beat of the world that I can almost touch standing there watching the waves, holding my coffee cup leaning against the door frame. That’s when the explosion hit me. I was shaking, staring. Watching. Horrified. Frozen to the ground. He reached around smiling, ran his fingers through my hair and winked, “stay here kiddo, I’m just going to check it out”. He walked silently, lightly from where I was standing hidden by the small planting of trees at the top of the concrete steps that led from the barracks up to the border post house that my parents used when moving us from Estate House to Barracks. If a Scout doesn’t want to be heard or seen, he won’t be. Their speed, dexterity and skill is second to none. But he’s tired, it’s been a long drive and he hasn’t slept in 72 hours that’s why I guess he missed the tell-tale signs that showed the place was rigged. Booby trap.
He blew up in front of me.
The ocean was no longer visible. The breeze I felt was that of an explosion, slamming me into the ground, trees, knocking me unconscious. When I came to it would be to see utter devastation all around me and no sign of him, or none that I care to share with you now.
It was this memory, this flashback. This vision of destruction stored in my brain with too much serotonin, no longer simple memory but PTS flashback, that caused me to reach for the shotgun. Load it. Sit on the bathroom floor and wrap my toe around the trigger. I just needed to not see this anymore. I just needed to not… anything … anymore.
Was I weak?
Was I doing it because there was honour in the act?
Was I, perhaps, selfish?
Those three men mentioned above would say yes to all three of those questions, undoubtedly I was and am. But I say I bloody well was not. I was no more able to control my impulse to die, to end it than a wave can stop itself from crashing into the beach. When a flashback hits you like that one there is no way out, there are no brakes, there is only drowning and death.
Why do we need to wrap our arms around our veterans, first responders and those with PTS? Because we are the only ones that can prevent them from being killed. Suicide is no cognitive act. It is not the wilful act of a mis-guided desire to seek out honour where no honour lies… How freaking dumb do you have to be to suggest that anybody would choose to blow their brains out all over a wall on some misguided hope that their death will be viewed as ‘honourable’. Are you freaking kidding me?
Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson died because of his injuries earned on a call in 1980 where he felt he had been forced to let a colleague die a brutal, painful and isolated death tortured by evil men as he drew his last. Eddie Adamson held his dying friend in his arms and was soaked in his blood. Eddie Adamson lived for the rest of his life with that visual replaying over and over and over again in his head. He went on to serve his country, his city and his comrades with incredible power, vision and energy. He moved up the ranks, he became Staff Sergeant but in the end, his injury killed him.
I ask you this: is it right that the faceless grey haired men sitting behind closed doors get to dictate whether this man and others like him are worth saving or not? Are worth honouring or not? I warn you now, if they win, it’s a short walk backwards to the days where fragging was acceptable practice.
Fragging: shooting an officer in the back of the head because he was seen as a liability.
Worryingly for Toronto Police members, Deputy Chief Mike Federico is the man in charge of Mental Health Wellness. The one man who could change everything for TPS members fighting PTS/OSI and is the key to Staff Sergeant Eddie Adamson being honoured or not: to having a trusted peer support system in place at TPS.
Here’s one officers point of view I’d love to see Deputy Federico taking to heart:
“Change requires .. a concerted and sincere effort from the top to say that the stigma must end. Egotistical bullying bosses MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their attitudes and failures in this area. Those who perpetuate the STIGMA with comments and prejudicial behaviours MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their actions… warm and fuzzy committee meetings and focus groups will achieve nothing until STIGMA is addressed and confronted at all levels.”
That officer is a OSI / PTS survivor. A veteran cop.
When cops can no longer fight for themselves, when their voices are silenced by their organization who then will speak for them? Who then will fight?
Trust is key. Betrayal by TPS of its members is horrendous: removal of badges from PTS survivors, lack of real support from TPA, etc etc etc. I’m glad the Toronto Ombudsman has them in his sights when the TEMS report is done in November. Whether sweetly and hand in hand with the mental health advocates who care deeply about these issues or locked horns and scrapping all the way, TPS is going to change.
From A Snow Owl in LA:
“So long as there is breath in me, that long I will persist.
For now I know one of the greatest principles of success:
if I persist enough I will win.”
– which is to say, one way or another S/Sergeant Eddie Adamson will be honoured by Toronto Police and measures put in place to protect all others because there are hoards of us who care deeply that our sheepdogs are wrapped in protective arms when they cannot give anymore.