A Canadian soldier based in Shilo, Man., says he will keep speaking out about what he sees as a lack of medical and mental health services in the military, despite an order from a superior to be quiet.
Cpl. Steve Stoesz said his fight to get proper health services for injured soldiers is worse than the battle he endured in Afghanistan.
Stoesz had been ordered by a Canadian Forces superior not to do media interviews, but he said he is devastated by the lack of support.
"They broke me in the fight after, in the dealing with my own country," he told CBC News on Monday.
"The country that I fought for now has broken me."
Stoesz returned to Canada in 2008 after surviving three bomb attacks in Afghanistan and suffering speech and balance problems.
He said he is worn down by the amount of red tape he has needed to go through to get counselling, physiotherapy and other medical care.
Stoesz said he had to wait for more than three years to get surgery for some injuries.
As well, he said his depression and anxiety were caused not by his tour of duty in Afghanistan, but by the years of fighting to get help from the Canadian Forces.
"The loyalty, the commitment and all that — it's a one-way street. They expect it from us but they don't give it in return," he said.
Soldier did the right thing, activist says
Retired intelligence officer Sean Bruyea, who is now a military activist, said Stoesz did the right thing by speaking out.
Stoesz's case is similar to that of other injured soldiers, and he should not be disciplined, said Bruyea.
"Steve has basically challenged a big system which feels it can still muzzle people from freedom of speech," he said.
Stoesz has not been disciplined for disobeying the order against speaking out.
For its part, the Department of National Defence would not comment on the case, saying it's a matter of privacy.
Stoesz said he plans to remain in the military, where he will keep fighting for soldiers' rights and benefits.
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