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Montreal veterans reflect on Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu attacks

10/23/2014 09:08 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST
The deaths of two soldiers in attacks in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa this week are weighing heavily on the minds of active and retired soldiers across the country.

CBC Daybreak reporter Shari Okeke visited veterans at Roxboro’s Royal Canadian Legion, on Montreal’s West Island, and spoke to them about how they are coping.

"It’s been a very emotional day. It’s been two brother-in-arms who have been taken down, and as a former soldier, yes I feel it," said retired Master Cpl. Fraser Debney.

Debney served in the military from 1989 to 2007, on missions to the Middle East, Haiti, Bosnia and Uganda, among other places.

Debney said he is active on several veterans’ forums on social media, and discussions of how the events have triggered soldiers’ post-traumatic stress are "running rampant right now."

Debney said members of the military are doing everything they can to watch out for one another.

"It’s emotional…" Debney said, pausing to regain his composure. "But we try to watch each other and make sure that everybody’s accounted for."

Taking off the uniform

The Royal Canadian Legion’s District Commander for Lakeshore West, Murray Smith, said local police came by to talk about security measures.

The police suggested not holding any public parades, especially in uniform.

"They also suggested to be careful that your people do not wear uniforms while they are selling poppies," said Smith, who is also the poppy chairman.

Sidney Wansborough served in the British military in the 1950s before coming to Canada.

He said it makes sense for the Canadian Armed Forces to ask current and former soldiers not to wear their uniforms — not only for military members’ safety, but for the safety of those around them.

"If he becomes a bullet magnet wearing a uniform other people are going to get hurt who are not soldiers, so it's a good idea not to wear the uniform," Wansborough said.

Debney disagreed. He said he refused to cower in the face of the attacks this week.

"I am not going to hide, I’m not going to cover myself up. This whole ISIS thing — they can just kind of go to hell. I know that’s the sentiment of a lot of my peers, a lot of my veteran peers, who knew I was coming here to talk to you. They said, ‘Make sure people know we’re not happy with taking our uniforms [off]," Debney said.

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