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The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Dave Gionet

Week of Remembrance Day 4: Dave Gionet. He is a true Canadian Hero so please take the time to read this and send him some love via comments and likes. Master Corporal Dave Gionet served two tours in Afghanistan, from February 9 - September 7, 2005 and January 21 - August 30, 2007.

My name is Dave Gionet and I am forty-two (42) years old come from a small town in New Brunswick called Pigeon-Hill.  I was raised by my mother Celine and my father Theophile who are currently retired and still reside in Pigeon-Hill.  I have three siblings, my sister Diane who lives in Moncton, New Brunswick and my two brothers who are fisherman, Marcel and Steve who live in Pigeon-Hill.   

I finished high school when I was twenty (20) and enrolled in college for two years taking a course to become a correctional officer, however knowing I was not completely ready I decided to pursue other options.  When I turned twenty-five (25) I decided it was time for a new journey and moved to Kitchener, Ontario where at twenty-nine (29) I joined the army.  I served twelve (12) years and did two tours in Afghanistan.  When I returned from my second tour I was medically released and retired September 1, 2013.

Here is a history of some of my encounters during my two tours.  While in Afghanistan, Kandahar, 2007 on Tuesday, March 20th, we were trying to recover a Coyote surveillance vehicle that had struck a mine.  I was the gunner of C/S 61C we were staying in the rear for security; the dog handler (Shaun Parker) and his dog (Alex) were with us. Sgt Sheldon, called for Alex and Shaun to inspect the area.  Alex smelt an IED, but de stepped on the IED before he was able to alert us.  The bomb went off, Alex was killed immediately and Shaun was very badly injured.  I was roughly 50 feet from the Bomb; the blast almost threw me off my feet, when I looked at what had happened, I couldn’t see anything with all the dust in the air.  I ran to see if everyone was okay but by then I knew it was going to be bad.  I could hear someone crying for help and when I got in the impact area, I saw Shaun in a bad position and a couple of soldiers that were confused by the blast, in a second I took charge and went to give first aide to the dog handler that was in a very bad state, to this day, it’s too hard for me to describe the details but I did succeed to open his airway until the evacuation took place about an hour later.  That was the first incident happening to me in my tour.

On April 11th, 2007 after three (3) days on an OP we were relieved by C/S 62.  On our way to our location, 62D struck an IED.  We turned down from the OP and moved to 62D location to provide security.  On the way to the IED strike, the vehicle in front of me was also hit by an IED (61B).  I immediately jumped off my coyote and went toward the crew of 61B to give first aide.  However, despite the help of my friends and me we lost two great soldiers

 

On June 11th, 2007 we were traveling about 40 km north of Kandahar City, when C/S 61D hit an IED.  I was the second vehicle C/S 61C in the rear, when we saw the blast we stopped and I jumped off to go provide first aide.  When I got to the vehicle I saw the crew was in very bad shape, upon investigating further I saw one of the crew was still in the vehicle it was the driver, my good friend (Caswell) however, it was too late, after we secured the location me and two more of my crew removed Caswell and put him in the helicopter for evacuation.  For the Dragoons, and myself this moment was very difficult, it was unforgettable has stayed with me.   This was the final incident for me during this tour. 

When I returned home from Afghanistan everything had changed for me and it was a very difficult process to adjust to a normal life.  I served my country and my crew to the best of my abilities, however for everything there is a price and nothing remains the same. 

 

Medal of Military Valour Citation:

“For extraordinary courage while under threat of fire, explosions and enemy attack during the rescue of fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle following an improvised explosion with the 2 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, Task Force Afghanistan on 11 April 2007.”

“On 11 April 2007, Private Dolmovic and Corporal Gionet saved the live of a fellow crewmember after his vehicle struck and improvised explosive devise in Nalgham, Afghanistan.  After freeing the trapped driver, Private Dolmovic and Corporal Gionet performed life-saving first-aid, despite imminent risks of fire, explosions and enemy attack.”

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: Week of Remembrance: An Account of War by Stephen Oliver

Today on Remembrance Day we stop on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and think about all of those that have sacrificed for our freedom.  On this day I am honoured to bring you Stephen Oliver's account.  About 4 years ago Stephen transferred into the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and lets just say he made a major impact.  Stephen's outgoing and positive attitude matched with his love of physical fitness and the experience he brought from a long life of soldiering made him a pivotal member of the regiment.  It didn't take long for us to cross paths and he's been kicking my ass ever since.  When I started this project I immediately thought of Stephen and knew that I had to get him to contribute...He grilled me about all aspects of the project and when he was satisfied with my answers he agreed to participate.  Its been some time coming but here it is!  Sergeant Stephen Oliver served in Afghanistan from April 2010 - December 2010 as part of Task Force Kandahar. 

In April 2010 I arrived in Kandahar Afghanistan as part of a five soldier Tactical Psychological Operations Team. The team had spent the prior year competing against one another for positions, training together as a team and building the individual skills we needed to step off the plane and support the Canadian mission.

Upon arrival we were attached to a Company of the US Army 82nd Airborne 2/508thoperating in the Arghandab Valley. It was there with the 82nd at Combat Outpost (COP) Ware that I first got my feet wet; a surprisingly literal statement. The terrain of the valley surrounding the COP encompassed deep rivers, lush apricot orchards and delicately milled radish fields. Every day we would conduct a patrol composed of a small number of Afghans, US Soldiers and we Canadians. Our constantly varying routes would take us through the rivers, over the walls and walking through rows of crops. I would sit and speak with the farmers, listening to their stories and often telling them ours. We would talk of the war and government, of the land and the rain, of families and home. This talk was not aimless. It was our job to shape what people thought about their government, the military and our enemies in hopes of supporting the various security and development efforts. I remember one such conversation from early in my deployment.

 We patrolled out to a nomadic village near our observation post both perched on the side of a hill. Our mission was to deal with a small crisis. The day prior a soldier was forced to kill a large dog from this village that came barrelling down upon him. Occasionally, this type of crisis mitigation was the reason for our meetings although probably not as often as many believe. Our well-armed patrol arrived among the shelters and we met the local leader. He was an old man with a long grey beard and aged face that showed many years of hard living. He invited us to sit with him in the Mosque tent, an invitation that came with a cultural catch - no footwear. My note taker, our interpreter, a US Sergeant and I considered this catch and decided that we could fight without boots should the need arise. We removed our boots and placed them neatly beside the door. A plate of dried fruit and tea promptly arrived. The old man initially refused to believe that I was also raised on a small family farm with animals and working dogs. I assumed he was wary of such coincidences with friendly strangers. Instead his stereotype of us focused on the towering cement cities not the wide Canadian landscapes. Together we drank tea, ate fruit and talked of where his country was going and how he could help guide it there.

Today I remember this conversation not because he was our enemy or our friend; he very well may have been either. I remember this conversation not because he gave us vital information or some other great military victory. I remember this conversation because it gave us each an opportunity to show respect for one another and feed a real curiosity that everyone in that tent shared. This was our job as much as fighting was our job and our team of five Canadians was really good at it.

This story and others from my time in Afghanistan will stay with me. I try to remember that as much as I arrived ready to fight in a desert only to walk through orchards it was our daily work and our conversations that were changing expectations and attitudes for everyone in that conflict. 

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: Week of Remembrance: An Account of War by Henry Wong

When I was first contacted by Henry he was hesitant to participate in the project but as we talked  about it he changed his mind.  I am happy that I did because his account will resonate with everyone who reads it.  During my trip to Ottawa Henry took time out of his schedule to meet up and have his portrait taken.  It was great to finally meet him, Henry brings a humour that is all his own and its easy to see how he positively impacted the lives of those he served with and the Afghans that he strove to help.  I am proud to bring you Henry's account.  Cpl Henry Wong served in Afghanistan from September 2008 - April 2009 as part of Task force Afghanistan and Task Force Kandahar.

Positive Flashbacks

It was just before Ceremonial Guard 2007 started that I received word I had been selected to attend pre-deployment training for TF 3-08.  I remember seeing the short list of junior NCO’s from my unit and was pleased that I would be in good company for my tour.  As a reservist I couldn’t have imagined the varied experiences and opportunities that were waiting for me.  Initially I was assigned to Force Protection, 2 Platoon of the National Support Element.  We were trained to carry out escort duties for re-supply convoys to the various forward operating bases/patrol bases and conduct Defense & Security tasks.  By about mid October we started handing over our duties of daily convoys to Force Protection 1 Platoon and Force Protection 2 Platoon would begin the daily grind at Entry Control Point 3 of Kandahar Airfield.  Eventually we again handed over duties to the Slovak Military Police.  Since there was little requirement for two platoons to conduct Combat Logistic Patrols, my platoon would end up being divided into various other organizations.  With great fortune, I was assigned to a mentoring team within the OMLT. 

When I first heard of the Afghanistan Veteran Project I knew I wanted to contribute, but I honestly wasn’t sure how to go about it.  I’m not much of a writer or a story teller and by luck my experience encompassed a fair amount.  I’m convinced that if you gathered all the daily stories, from the mundane to the extraordinary, of each soldier, it would be measured in countless volumes.  Those who know me best will probably tell you I’m quite soft spoken, so I think it’s only fitting that I settled on humour as the main focus of my experience.  I think it’s safe to say that humour, especially for a soldier, goes a long way in keeping morale high and we relish those funny moments of peace with war going on about you. 

Looking back on my military career I’ve had many memorable moments and there are a few that stick out in my mind.  These memories make me smile and/or laugh out loud when I think of them.  One of my favorites is a memory from late Sept or early October 2008.  It was a pleasantly warm evening at Kandahar Airfield; the temperature was just right for shorts and t-shirt and as long as I didn’t move too much I wouldn’t start sweating bullets.

I was sitting outside the 2 Section Weather-haven tent in the Force Protection lines (“lines” being military speak for “where we were living that moment”) and enjoying a quiet evening after a very long day of re-supply convoys.  Next to me sat my good Friend Alec.  I honestly don’t remember what we may have been talking about, but that doesn’t really matter.  Here we were, lucky as all heck to have the chance to deploy (well…not all luck, there was some work involved) and fortunate enough to be part of a solid Platoon.

There was a moment of comfortable silence amongst the din of the Airfield.  Suddenly, we both heard a long whistling sound, the sound that is hard to mistake for something else, the sound that military guys know all too well and it just makes your skin crawl and your heart skip a beat.  I didn’t know exactly what it was at the time, but my mind immediately went to “Artillery Simulator” which then translated into “Mortar round or Rocket” which then further translated into “Bad”.

We both heard it, and likely we were both thinking the same thing.  I turned to face Alec as he turned to face me.  The look on his face was priceless; it was a weird combination of partial grin and “oh shit this is gonna suck Dude!”, and of course I likely had the same expression on my face as well.

We sat there looking at each other with our weird expressions for what seemed like a few seconds.  Then, I utter the following phrase out of my mouth while trying to maintain a serious, as a matter of fact demeanor:

“I love you, Alec…”

After a half second pause we both burst into an uproar of laughter, the kind that makes you slap your knee, double over, tear up and hurts your stomach.  We are now both gasping for air and I hear Alec force out “I love you too, Henry” through his gritted teeth laughter.

I’m sure in the back of our minds we both knew that we weren’t in actual danger (relatively speaking of course).  In the end, the whistling sound turned out to be the whine of a jet engine winding down on the tarmac close by.  But I tell you, it was comforting to know that had that been my last moment on earth, I would’ve died happy, laughing, knowing I was doing something worthwhile, and that one of my close friends loved me like a Brother.

Another moment I’ll never forget was from the second half of my tour.  Life in Strong Point Mushan as a member of callsign 7-2 Charlie was constant and steady work.  Working alongside 6 other Canadians and a Company of ANA was (to me) much more akin to an adventure than work.  Aside from daily presence patrols, life within the Hesco walls of Mushan were calm, relaxed, and yet busy.  There was always something to do or improve or maintain so that Mushan could continue to function.  Taking care of diesel generators, radio watch, burning garbage, maintaining weapons, cooking meals, everything right down to doing laundry in a basin with a washboard; the list was endless. 

One day I was taking a respite from the ongoing activity inside Mushan when I received mail from my units Junior Rank’s Mess back home.  In the package my friend Dan had sent me a can of Honey Roasted Peanuts with a little note that read “I hope you like Nutz!”.   You’d be surprised how something like canned nuts can make you miss home.  I sat on our “Deck” (which was fashioned from pallets and plywood) with a fellow reservist from London, John.   John is an interesting character.  He enjoyed a good laugh and always kept things light, even if at that very moment we were doing something completely serious (like firing mortars).  His lighter side bellied the fact that he was also a thoughtful and intelligent soldier; not to mention that he is quite fit and cared for his body, often lamenting the anti-oxidant virtues of Green Tea.

As we sat quietly enjoying the mild temperature of “Winter” in mid February, I offered him some of my honey roasted nuts.  In his perpetual raspy voice and serious tone he says to me:

“Duuude, those are sooo good, but do you know how much saturated fat is in there?”

To which I replied:

“John…we could be dead tomorrow.”

He looked at that can of nuts with a contemplative gaze, within a few seconds he replied:

“Truth.”

 He then proceeded to take a handful of that honey roasted goodness and we both had a suppressed chuckle as we sat there enjoying my care package.  Somehow amongst the constant danger there was always room for a little humour, a little compromise, and a handful of nuts. 

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Brett Irwin

A couple of months ago Brett contacted us via Instagram.  Immediately, Brett was keen to participate and we had several key conversations over the following months.  Finally when I found some time we were able to meet up and shoot his portrait.  Brett has to be one of the calmest most laid back sincere individuals that I have ever met.  After reading his story and the struggles he has overcome to find peace I was taken back with the success he has had.  Despite still dealing with and coming to terms with what he experienced in Afghanistan Brett is a great success story and example of courage for any and all veterans. Never give up, someone will help you!  Cpl Brett Irwin served in Afghanistan from April 2010 - November 2010 as part of Task Force Kandahar.

             I first came into contact with the Afghanistan Veterans project via Instagram and instantly wanted to be apart of this cause. I did a lot of thinking on what I wanted to say or what story I should tell to define my experience at war in Afghanistan. Should I talk about one of my gunfights with the Taliban, one of the close calls I had being ambushed and go for the glory, or maybe about being struck with Improvised Explosive Devices and seeing my friends injured and go with the gore behind war?

 

            None of that is really that important and I really couldn’t care less about glory or what anyone has to say about me. So, after careful consideration I have decided to talk about the greatest fight of all, and that’s the fight all combat veterans face. Coming home from war. Call it (PTSD if u want I don’t know how to define it any better than the next person).

 

            The challenges I faced in Afghanistan with my brothers were always manageable, we always had each other there to talk to or to confide in when the shit hit the fan. Being home is a different story. I found myself alone fighting my demands, lashing out at my family and the people who loved me the most and turning to the bottle for comfort.  Coming home from war is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It’s been four and a half years since I returned from war and there hasn’t been a day go by where I don’t think of my time there.

 

            My heart still jumps through my chest when I hear a loud bang, I haven’t been able to enjoy fireworks on Canada day because they bring back horrible memories, I have moments of sever anxiety that seemingly comes out of nowhere. I have been as low as a person can go to the highest of highs where I’m on top of the world and back down again all before I even have lunch. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I needed help.

 

            Reaching out and admitting that I had an issue I couldn’t fix alone was the best decision I ever made. I started seeing a therapist about a year and a half after being home and it’s been a really tough road with a tremendous amount of challenges. I can say from the bottom of my heart I couldn’t have done it alone. I want all veterans to know that there is help out there if you think you need it. Don’t be ashamed of your demands because we are not alone. 

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Cesare Ierullo

Its been about a month since my last publication but the time away has been worth while as I have a ton of new content coming your way.  I met Cesare last Monday at CFB Borden...not what its called now but whatever.  The meeting was arranged by Daniel Yun who will be featured here soon.  I was taken away by how humble they both were and the support they were willing to give towards the project.  Needless to say I'm excited to bring you Cesare's account.  Master Corporal Cesare Ierullo served in Afghanistan from April - November 2010 as part of Task Force Kandahar.

I volunteered for Afghanistan for the opportunity to do something truly significant. I hoped to gain much from the experience and I certainly did. The time I spent in Afghanistan was the high point of my life to date, nothing back home has brought me the same complex rush of emotion and adrenaline. Not a single day has passed where I don't find my mind wandering back to 2010 in Afghanistan.

Our mission in Afghanistan was that of convoy escort and our platoon was officially titled National Support Element - Force Protection Platoon. 

Nicknamed the "Road Runners" and consisting entirely of reserve Infantry & Armoured volunteers, we set out to to protect the invaluable cargo that was frequently dispatched across the province of Kandahar. We moved everything from ammunition to people, whether it was through the traffic laden, bustling Kandahar city or out in the far flung rural reaches of the province, we took much pride in the execution of our missions.

Coming home with all the experiences I brought with me made reintegrating back into my normal life before tour particularly frustrating. I left Afghanistan feeling tremendously angry and bitter about the whole affair for a variety of reasons. We had been violently ambushed with RPG's and machinegun fire and my friend Master Corporal Mark Soteroff was wounded. Another friend with the Combat Engineers Sapper Brian Collier had been killed.

As is typical with war there were moments of great dread, anxiety and doubt, fear and uncertainty but also were many moments of laughter and good times. The friendships and bonds that were forged with my peers in that country are long lasting and significant.

For what its worth, Afghanistan made me a better person and I'll always be grateful I had the opportunity to serve with such a fine platoon of soldiers.

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Luke Martin

As the project has grown so have our ambitions...Its time to bring some new soldiers into the fold and make this project an international project!  I'm super excited about this one, Luke is a super humble guy but he absolutely deserves the recognition for everything he has done.  His story truly speaks to the reality of war and the bonds that our military family create.  Please take the time to time to read Luke's story.  Specialist Luke Martin served in Afghanistan from May 2007 - August 2008 as part of Task Force Fury.

My name is Luke Martin. I was a Specialist with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1/503rd, C Co, 3rd Platoon (PL). My job was as a Forward Observer (FO) for my Infantry platoon. A job that was crucial in the fight, it was to provide the Artillery with the location of the enemy. I was in the US Army for 4 years. I was with the same unit the whole time and only went to Afghanistan once from May of 2007 to August of 2008, a 15 month deployment. For the most part we did missions our whole time there, a few breaks for refit but for the most part we were out of the wire for 300 of the 400+ days in country. We saw a lot of fighting, death, poverty, hate, appreciation, and disgust. We would look into the eyes of some men in a village and be able to tell that they would be fighting us later on. It truly was the strangest place I had ever been. 

My team mate Robbie Neary, from Illinois, and I were the 3rd PL FO's. He was one of those guys that could do anything, complete any task, and learn anything types. We hated each other when we first met, and I think that was why we were put together, some kind of character building test.  After getting into country we quickly became inseparable. It's hard to get shot at, and choose to not like one another. Over that year and three months we went through just about anything that two friends could in that desolate environment. We would set up targets along our routes, make the Fire Support op orders for what ever mission was going on that day, watch movies or play video games in our down time, eat chow and go over our job books. Well, after we made it home, all the way through a long, adventurous tour, Robbie went to Ranger School, and I started the process of getting out of the army to come home. He ended up getting out a bit after I did, within a day of being home he flipped the car he was driving and died. 

This is where my true battle began. I had no clue how to handle such a devastating blow. He was my best friend and teammate. We went everywhere together. I understood that Afghanistan was War. And as the saying goes, War Is Hell. I knew that the killing, fighting, shooting, rockets, mortars, and all the other stuff we had to deal with, was War. For the most part, I loved it. I loved the feeling of getting the quick reaction force call to roll out and help with the fight. I loved getting on a helicopter to get dropped some place in the middle of the night.  Walk down riverbeds tripping over everything because our night vision sucked. But a car accident? After all of the things we had been through I couldn’t accept that a car accident could be a cause of death. How was that fair to take such a great man in that way?

I lost it. I wanted to die. I couldn't get back into the fight fast enough and I knew that I would never be doing the things I had once done again.  I drank till I blacked out every night. If I had ran out of beer or liquor before I fell asleep I hopped in my jeep and drove to buy more. Sometimes just hoping I was going fast enough that if I hit a telephone pole it would be enough to kill me. Long nights of staring at my Smith and Wesson .40 cal wondering if I had the guts to kill myself. It was the constant question in my mind not of if I would kill myself but when. All of the drinking got me out of shape. All of the self-loathing turned me lazy and un-ambitious.

I was stuck in this hatred for myself, for not doing more. Not taking those steps to stay in the army, maybe me being there would have saved my best friends life. I kept thinking that I gave up on my team and myself. Perhaps if I had gone back for another deployment I would have felt better about myself, or maybe if I had tried out for something else that it would change how I feel now. But what-ifs get you killed. What-ifs take from what I did, I did sign my life for my country.  Had I died in combat, or if I die at 99 years of age with my wife by my side, I am going to remember that I went to a country that had no hope for help.  I went over with one of the best Units in the US Army and fought and made the difference we could. One tour isn't much at all. I'll never say that I did as much as I wish, but dammit Robbie, we did it, we survived, and I will never forget the fight. My fight’s not over, my life is a gift again and I am happy I brought the fight to their land, instead of letting it come this great land. 

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Amanda Diamond

I am proud to bring you our second female contributor.  Amanda's story is full of highs and lows but is more importantly a story of success.  I suggest highly suggest taking the time to read her story, her website and Facebook page. She may be able to help you as well.  Private Amanda Diamond in Afghanistan from November 2006 - August 2007 as part of Task Force Force Afghanistan and Task Force Kandahar.

Army Life, Chronic Stress and Autoimmunity. My Journey Toward Wellness. 

By Amanda Diamond 

 

After graduating high school in a small town in rural Ontario, I struggled with the age old question..."What am I going to do with my life?"  I had always been an over-achiever and was looking for a new challenge and a way to see the world and expand my horizons. Naturally, I decided the join the Army.  After about a year of training, I was posted to Edmonton as a Signal Operator at the Brigade Headquarters.

 

In November of 2006 I deployed with the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Though most of my deployment was spent in a comfy, air-conditioned headquarters building, I struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my 9 months abroad. My sleep was non existent at times and my body seemed to be rebelling against me. My digestive issues were manageable at that time, but bothersome to say the least. I was irritable, on edge and began isolating myself from my friends and fellow soldiers. I never expressed how I was feeling to anyone else. I felt that I had no reason to complain, and that I was lucky that my job was relatively easy and safe. 

 

By the end of my tour, I knew that this lifestyle was not for me. Though I valued everything the military had taught me, I knew I was ready to move on. My release was processed 6 months after returning home. The following year I became a mother, and not long after the birth of my daughter I began experiencing a decline in my health. After months of doctor’s appointments and numerous tests I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an auto-immune disease that effects the lower digestive system.  

 

I have lived with this disease for over 4 years now. I've experienced many ups and downs and constant changes in my body. Sudden weight loss, bloating, hair loss, bleeding, and gut wrenching stomach cramps became my normal day to day life. I've tried numerous treatments, from pharmaceuticals to herbal remedies, dietary restrictions to nicotine therapy and the biggest realization I've come to is this: 

 

Mental stress wreaks havoc on our physical health.

 

Noticing this link between long term stress and my own illness led me to begin researching the topic. Many studies have been done on the topic recently, supporting the idea that stress relief techniques are vital pieces of the wellness puzzle.  Multiple studies have shown that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Specifically, prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases. Mental health professionals dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have also noticed this link, stating that PTSD sufferers have an increased risk of developing heart disease and auto-immune disorders. 

 

 

So how do you put an end to the stress response in the body when it seems to be so deeply engrained... especially in veterans, police officers and other first responders?  

 

My personal experience with chronic illness has taught me that stress relief techniques are vital to both mental and physical health and wellness. Practicing meditation, yoga and breathing exercises calm the fight or flight reaction by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the body's natural relaxation response.  

 

For me, these techniques were the missing link on my healing journey. Since integrating them into my daily life I have noticed a marked improvement in my mood, digestion and inflammatory response. Along with proper diet and exercise, meditation and mindfulness play an important role in my balanced lifestyle. I am no longer taking any medications to manage my illness and can enjoy the quality of life I was accustomed to before getting sick. 

 

I now pour my energy into helping others regain their health and overcome illness through coaching support and wellness education. If you are a veteran, and are struggling with chronic health problems I want you to know that it can get better. But I assure you, the cure won't be found at the bottom of a pill bottle. Real healing starts with changing your thought processes, practicing mindfulness and learning to love yourself, flaws and all.

 

 

 

About the Author - Amanda Diamond 

Amanda is a Health Coach, Wellness Educator and Mother of two. She draws from her personal experience with chronic disease to inspire others to take control of their health and find balance in their lives. You can connect with Amanda on FaceBook and Twitter or by visiting her website. 

 

 

[http://www.facebook.com/amandadiamondhealthcoach] 

[http://www.twitter.com/amandakdiamond] 

[http://www.amandadiamond.com]

The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Dave Gionet

This week I had the Pleasure to meet Dave Gionet and I must say he is an awesome down to earth guy.  Ever since he contacted me weeks ago I had been excited to meet him and I felt honoured that he asked me to help tell his story.  So, without adieu here is Dave's account.  He is a true Canadian Hero so please take the time to read this and send him some love via comments and likes. Master Corporal Dave Gionet served two tours in Afghanistan, from February 9 - September 7, 2005 and January 21 - August 30, 2007.

Dave Gionet.jpg

My name is Dave Gionet and I am forty-two (42) years old come from a small town in New Brunswick called Pigeon-Hill.  I was raised by my mother Celine and my father Theophile who are currently retired and still reside in Pigeon-Hill.  I have three siblings, my sister Diane who lives in Moncton, New Brunswick and my two brothers who are fisherman, Marcel and Steve who live in Pigeon-Hill.   

I finished high school when I was twenty (20) and enrolled in college for two years taking a course to become a correctional officer, however knowing I was not completely ready I decided to pursue other options.  When I turned twenty-five (25) I decided it was time for a new journey and moved to Kitchener, Ontario where at twenty-nine (29) I joined the army.  I served twelve (12) years and did two tours in Afghanistan.  When I returned from my second tour I was medically released and retired September 1, 2013.

Here is a history of some of my encounters during my two tours.  While in Afghanistan, Kandahar, 2007 on Tuesday, March 20th, we were trying to recover a Coyote surveillance vehicle that had struck a mine.  I was the gunner of C/S 61C we were staying in the rear for security; the dog handler (Shaun Parker) and his dog (Alex) were with us. Sgt Sheldon, called for Alex and Shaun to inspect the area.  Alex smelt an IED, but de stepped on the IED before he was able to alert us.  The bomb went off, Alex was killed immediately and Shaun was very badly injured.  I was roughly 50 feet from the Bomb; the blast almost threw me off my feet, when I looked at what had happened, I couldn’t see anything with all the dust in the air.  I ran to see if everyone was okay but by then I knew it was going to be bad.  I could hear someone crying for help and when I got in the impact area, I saw Shaun in a bad position and a couple of soldiers that were confused by the blast, in a second I took charge and went to give first aide to the dog handler that was in a very bad state, to this day, it’s too hard for me to describe the details but I did succeed to open his airway until the evacuation took place about an hour later.  That was the first incident happening to me in my tour.

On April 11th, 2007 after three (3) days on an OP we were relieved by C/S 62.  On our way to our location, 62D struck an IED.  We turned down from the OP and moved to 62D location to provide security.  On the way to the IED strike, the vehicle in front of me was also hit by an IED (61B).  I immediately jumped off my coyote and went toward the crew of 61B to give first aide.  However, despite the help of my friends and me we lost two great soldiers

 

On June 11th, 2007 we were traveling about 40 km north of Kandahar City, when C/S 61D hit an IED.  I was the second vehicle C/S 61C in the rear, when we saw the blast we stopped and I jumped off to go provide first aide.  When I got to the vehicle I saw the crew was in very bad shape, upon investigating further I saw one of the crew was still in the vehicle it was the driver, my good friend (Caswell) however, it was too late, after we secured the location me and two more of my crew removed Caswell and put him in the helicopter for evacuation.  For the Dragoons, and myself this moment was very difficult, it was unforgettable has stayed with me.   This was the final incident for me during this tour. 

When I returned home from Afghanistan everything had changed for me and it was a very difficult process to adjust to a normal life.  I served my country and my crew to the best of my abilities, however for everything there is a price and nothing remains the same. 

Medal of Military Valour Citation:

“For extraordinary courage while under threat of fire, explosions and enemy attack during the rescue of fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle following an improvised explosion with the 2 Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, Task Force Afghanistan on 11 April 2007.”

“On 11 April 2007, Private Dolmovic and Corporal Gionet saved the live of a fellow crewmember after his vehicle struck and improvised explosive devise in Nalgham, Afghanistan.  After freeing the trapped driver, Private Dolmovic and Corporal Gionet performed life-saving first-aid, despite imminent risks of fire, explosions and enemy attack.”