GUYSBOROUGH – Lionel Desmond was young and new to combat when he joined a 10-man section in fighting the Taliban in Afghaniston back in 2007. Fellow soldier Trevor Bungay first got to know Desmond during the year-long training program in advance of their service overseas.
“It’s a very steep learning curve,” Bungay told The Journal during an interview Friday, Jan. 6. “Especially when you know you’re going into war...You’re coming into an extreme situation. It wasn’t a peacekeeping mission. We were going to war and obviously that takes a toll.”
Bungay said the first few months, starting in Jan. 2007, were relatively uneventful. Then one day as the section was returning to their barracks after being on patrol, they were fired upon.
“We immediately launched an attack and took them all out...From that day until the end of August we were fighting,” he said. Every day people were killed -- soldiers, Taliban and civilians, he said.
“There was a ton of death and destruction for the last three or four months...It’s something that nobody should ever see.”
After his time in Afghanistan, Desmond would reach out to the the friends he served with for help from time to time, said Bungay.
“All the guys, we still reach out to each other and look out for our well-being.”
Desmond last reached out to Bungay about a year and a half ago. “He was not feeling great.” Bungay said he pointed him towards help “and things were apparently going well.”
Bungay himself was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014. He says he was living with it since 2007.
“Back then we didn’t even know what it was.”
Over the past two years Bungay established a number of treatment centres for those with PTSD. More than 3000 people have been helped through these centres so far. Trauma Healing Centres provides help for Canadian veterans, first responders and others affected by PTSD.
He said he hopes that the increased attention to PTSD because of this tragedy will bring about change. Many thousands of people need treatment across Canada, he said, and there are probably only 1000 beds.
Canada needs facilities where “you’re coming in, you’re getting your treatment and you’re not leaving until you’re ready,” he said.
When asked about some media commentary in the wake of this tragedy critical of the focus on PTSD, saying this is an example of family violence or violence against women, Bungay sounded frustrated.
“I think people are just looking for an excuse...This was family violence. We all know that. Was it because of PTSD? Yes. One hundred per cent.”
Bungay said he hopes that when people see troops going overseas that they don’t think that it’s just money being paid. “We pay a lot more,” he said. “They (returning soldiers) have to go home at night and try to be normal. And it’s really hard.
“Lionel is a hero,” said Bungay. “He is a man who fought for his country. He fought hard. He fought fiercely. He was the first one to run into them (the Taliban)...I’ve seen it.
“He was injured over there and he lost his fight. He lost his battle.”