by Medric Cousineau, SC, CD, Captain Retired RCAF
Q: Why did you become a Naval Aviator?
I am and always was an adrenaline junkie. Upon graduation from the Royal Military College, I was slated to enter training to become an Air Navigator. Two thirds of the way through our basic “Wings” training we had to enter our preferences, and being a Tactical Coordinator on a Sea King Helicopter, flying off of the back of destroyer at sea fueled the need for adventure as there were many hands on evolutions including Helicopter Inflight Refueling and Search and Rescue Work that would help feed the need for adrenaline rushes.
Q: What happened that changed your life?
For me the world changed the night of the 6th of October, 1986. That night we were tasked to rescue two American Long Line Fisherman after they had a very serious accident onboard their vessel. It was a raging nighttime North Atlantic Gale and for those who say “That Hell no Fury like a woman scorned” clearly have not experienced the savagery of the North Atlantic. When the rescue was over, I was awarded Canada’s second highest award for bravery, and started to develop the symptoms of what would develop into PTSD.
Q: When did you first realize that you had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The symptoms and issues started to rear their ugly heads within days of the Rescue, and I started tumbling down a very slippery slope.
Q: Did your doctors and/or family members know what was going on inside you? If not, why didn’t you tell them? If so, how did they try to help you and did they succeed?
The challenge was the fact that in 1986 the medical community and the military were very poorly equipped to deal with someone like myself. I had gone to the Squadron Commander, who arranged help for me with some medical professionals. But it became very apparent that my career was over if I did not “get myself back together” immediately. So to hide it, I became a chronic, daily, blackout drinker. Eventually I had to leave the military because I knew I was going to get an innocent bystander to my self-destruction killed if I kept on.
Q: Describe your worse day & your best day during this time.
I think the worst day is easy. The day I received copies of my medical documents in around late 1996 after having been discharged from the Emergency Assessment Unit of a Psychiatric Hospital and seeing that my diagnosis was confirmed in 1991 yet untreated. That Betrayal nearly ended my life, as I became so depressed and at the same time violently angry. Institutional Betrayal is a very devastating injury that is just beginning to be explored.
The Best Day? The 6th of August, 2012, as that is the day that I met my new PTSD service dog from the CARES program in Concordia, Kansas.
Q: What is “Paws Fur Thought?”
Paws Fur Thought is an initiative that was co-founded by my wife and myself to help other veterans, and now first responders get help for PTSD. This was done to help quiet the voices in my head, “The what about the others?” voices as I knew that I was neither terminally unique nor the only one who had been unaware of the amazing service dogs that can help with PSTD.
Q: Describe your worse day & best day with your service dog, Thai.
The best day with Thai is pretty much every day. Each and every day she employs her amazing skills from Night Terror Intervention, Hypervigilance Intervention to recalls from Panic, anxiety and Dissociative Episodes. So it is hard to label a best day.
The worst day? Absolutely the 26th of November, 2014. Sadly, that is the day that Cancer claimed the life of our oldest daughter, Lindsey whose 4th cancer diagnose was a death sentence. Bar none, it is a parent’s worst nightmare and I can tell you I was absolutely crushed. Thai was doing her very best to console me but I was a train wreck of emotions. So even during my absolutely worst day, Thai stood and tried her very best to be the “Dedicated Lifesaving” Partner she has become.
I am sorry for the loss of your daughter.
Q: How has society and the Veterans Assistance program betrayed the military veterans?
The betrayal by all societies is probably best summed up in a very simple sentence that we have used in our fundraising efforts. “If we Send’em, we must Mend’em”. A country has a solemn and sacred obligation to care for those that they put into harm’s way on our behalf. Quite simply, those who are going to write an unlimited cheque to their country for their mind, body and soul need to be sure, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they will be cared for if injured, or their families, if they are killed, and that some bureaucracy will not try to close the account of the Government’s obligation for insufficient funds. I do not regret my service to my country and fellow man. I loathe and despise bureaucrats who try and escape their obligations after we have done our duty. (Going to move on from this as it is a clear trigger and Thai is doing her best to settle me)
I am so sorry that my question caused you agitation. I hope in the months to come that this topic will be less stressful for you because it is an important topic for everyone.age would you like readers to take away from your book?
PTSD is a horrible beast that never sleeps and it will get you if you are not vigilant. But there is HOPE and there are those who can help you recover part of your life as you adapt to your “New Normal”, the life after your injuries.
Captain Cousineau, thank you for sharing your story with me and thousands of other veterans and civilians out there. I know that once your story is out there for others, it will be an inspiration to those who sorely need it. I wish you and your wife all the best with “Paws Fur Thought.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, please seek immediate medical attention. Like Captain Cousineau stated, “there is HOPE.” No one is saying the journey is easy, just that you do not need to travel it alone.
Thank You to Cares Inc., Concordia, Kansas, who trains dogs to help those in need.