|Cpl. Stuart Langridge, seen during a tour of duty in Afghanistan, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he took his own life in 2008.
TORONTO - An added tragedy to the suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge in Edmonton barracks in 2008, is not that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but that to the day he died he loved the army and relished being a soldier.
The statement in his suicide note that he could “no longer stand the pain,” probably reflected his emotional confusion of being an excellent soldier and liking the army, yet unraveling emotionally from what he’d seen and endured in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
To his mother, Sheila Fynes, this aspect “just breaks your heart.”
Also upsetting was that inexplicable errors were made in Langridge’s death certificate, his place of birth, the wrong next of kin, and other registration errors.
DND at first would not release the suicide note and absolved itself of blame or responsibility for errors made in the soldier’s death certificate.
In efforts to correct the record, Shaun and Sheila Fynes have sought the help of retired Col. Michel Drapeau, Canada’s top lawyer in military matters, who knows first hand the reluctance of DND to either admit or correct errors.
The Fynes have spent over $10,000 since 2008, in efforts to get DND to make corrections of original errors in their son’s death. They dropped a lawsuit, for fear it would look as if they were trying to profit from the death.
Instead, they want the record corrected — not much to ask, it would seem, since all the particulars about Cpl. Langridge would have had to come from DND, and not from the soldier’s girlfriend as DND has implied.
In life, the 28-year-old Langridge was a top athlete (Iron Man competitions) and a member of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse — arguably Canada’s best-known an armoured regiment.
PTSD is the mystery affliction of the military, both in Canada and the U.S. It can lie dormant in a person, to surface after the person has left the military. It can be triggered by something not necessarily related to military service.
That said, PTSD is still not well understood.
Drapeau notes that often there are symptoms, or signs of stress — drinking too much and, too often, taking various drugs — all of which were evident in Langridge when he returned to Canada. He sought treatment in hospitals and from the military.
Shaun Fynes, told the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) that his stepson “ping-ponged between provincial hospitals that didn’t want anything to do with him, and the (army) medical unit that didn’t know what to do with him.”
That’s the story of unknown numbers of PTSD soldiers.
Both Mrs. Fynes and Col. Drapeau note that there is almost a “tsunami of PTSD cases occurring, especially in the U.S.”
“In the army soldiers don’t dare talk about it, or seek treatment, for fear they’ll be identified as looney,” said Col. Drapeau. By its reluctance to be forthcoming in Langridge’s case, DND creates the impression that there was something shameful to hide.
To Sheila Fynes, the “pain” her son felt he could no longer live with, was that he loved the army “and he must of felt that he was not worthwhile as a soldier, and this was humiliating to him.” Suicide must have seemed his only option.
In fact, he was an excellent soldier and recognized as such in army assessments.
There’s since been suggestions by DND that he may have had mental problems before joining the army, some eight years before he died. That’s improbable. Anyone entering the army is screened before admission. Soldiers today are above average.
There are reports that the federal government has agreed to cover the family’s costs of legal representation before the MPCC inquiry.
One hopes so.