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Cpl. McEachern-PTSD or Suicide Attempt?

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123456

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I would like to know how people feel about the PTSD issue. It seems to be afecting more and more troops and the CF is having a hard time coping with all that is necessary to help it‘s own kind.

The latest public case is Cpl C McEachern in Edmonton see article below...


One soldier‘s death wish
On March 15, Cpl. Christian McEachern drove his SUV through the Edmonton Garrison, trying to end the nightmares that have plagued him since serving overseas. Now, as Bev Wake reports, his mother is fighting for her ‘broken‘ son and others like him.

Today, a month shy of 31, Cpl. McEachern is in a mental health institution in Edmonton. His blood pressure is so high he‘s at risk of a stroke.
Cpl. McEachern has been in the hospital since March 15, the day he drove his SUV through the headquarters at Edmonton Garrison, smashing computers, chairs and cubicles under its wheels. He was trying to kill himself that day, in an attempt to end the nightmares, the depression, the panic attacks, the anguish that have plagued him since returning to Canada after serving on peacekeeping missions in Croatia and Rwanda.
Arrested by military police and taken to a mental facility for treatment after the accident, Cpl. McEachern is not yet facing any charges.
If charges are laid, says his mother Paula Richmond, it will kill the physically strapping young soldier who chose to drive through that specific garrison because he knew it would be empty -- and knew it didn‘t house a Canadian flag or his regimental colours.
"He‘s a good soldier," Mrs. Richmond explains. "He didn‘t want to dishonour his unit."
That loyalty may be ironic, she suggested, since her son and the hundreds of other military personnel suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder aren‘t getting the help they need upon returning to Canada from overseas service.
"This is a guy who would die for that flag, and no one is standing up for him," Mrs. Richmond said last night from her home just outside of Medicine Hat, Alta. "This wasn‘t a criminal act, this was a cry for help."
Mrs. Richmond will be in Ottawa today to speak about her son‘s plight.
"This is actually an epidemic and this is my concern," she said. "I want to speak not just for Christian but for all the other soldiers who are broken, and all their mothers and daughters and sisters and wives because they don‘t have anywhere to turn either. I‘m afraid Christian‘s voice won‘t be heard."
Today, Mrs. Richmond is expected to ask retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire to intervene on behalf of the suffering soldiers, using his experiences as an example. "My son, General Dallaire is like a God to him. This is the guy he looks up to for hope," Mrs. Richmond said.
:(
 

Michael Dorosh

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Has there been a thread on the recent PTSD incident?  Doesn't seem like this crowd not to comment.

Cpl McEachern served in my MIlitia regiment  but I am not at liberty to discuss what hasn't been in the public domain, even though I never knew him nor did I work in the orderly room when any of his docs resided there.  Nonetheless, he has gotten what to me seems like short shrift in some other discussion groups and I would be interested in how you other detached observers have viewed this situation.

The latest news I read was that he is claiming his actions were a suicide bid.  

Other reactions I've read to him have been less than complimentary.  I think it may be unfortunate that his mother has become a spokesperson.  I personally think its admirable for anyone (woman or man) to publicly defend their son, but in some quarters it has been seen as "hiding behind mommy", which seems to me to be uncharitable in the extreme.

Any other thoughts or reactions?

Or is this not in the news east of Medicine Hat?
 
N

Nate2

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I do not know enough details of the incident to condemn or support the soldier, but I feel pity and sorrow for him regardless. The government does not invest in treatment for PTSS, and has an abysmal record for supporting the personnel of the CAF. If this case represents an extreme result of PTSS being exposed to the public, then the Canadian press has failed as well, for they have not shown the publicthe PTSS related suicide attemts that have succeeded.

Regards,

Nate
 

Gunner

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Hey, I will agree wholehardedly that the CF was slow in the beginning to provide support for members of the CF that suffer from PTSD. HOWEVER, that was than and now there are numerous programs in place to help members of the CF. If you think you have any of the symptoms or simply need someone to talk to, support is there for you at any base (heck, mental health professionals will even fly out to see you). Call any base and speak with the medical people.

WRT the subject at hand, It‘s hard to say the CF hasn‘t taken PTSD seriously in the case of Cpl McEachern. Cpl McEachern has been on the MPHL undergoing treatment for PTSD for over 2 and a half years. This means he doesn‘t go to work with his unit (1 PPCLI). He is allowed to concentrates on overcoming his PTSD by working with medical specialists. He even gets to work in the civilian environment collecting both military and civilian pay. He is scheduled for release this summer as a medical discharge. He will receive a medical pension and will continue treatment for his disorder. Is this the CF not helping him out?

Cpl McEachern chose to drink alcohol, chose to get drunk, chose to drive a brand new Nissan Xterra through the base HQ...he chose the behaviour and he will hopefully have to pay the consequences. I don‘t buy he arguement that the military wasn‘t helping him and he did it as a "cry for help". Alot of people in Edmonton are upset that this joker is being hailed as a "hero" and all the attention he is receiving from the media, the Ombudsman and military heirarchy. If I have to listen his mother whine about how poorly treated her son is I‘m going to scream!

My final point is PTSD seems to be the flavour of the month. Anyone that has been on any type of mission (including Golan Heights, Alert, Germany and Cyprus) are able to justify their personnal problems as a case of PTSD and, in my mind, are using the system to their advantage. I am not saying that there are not members of the CF that have PTSD and the CF should do everything in their power to help them out. Where do we draw the line though?

If you served your country and feel you are suffering from PTSD then by all means GET HELP, but save the hero labels for the guys who really deserve it.
 

bossi

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Frankly, when I initially saw this thread the first thought which came to mind was "... kicking somebody when they are down ...".
As such, I "slept on it". Today, however, my view remains the same.

I certainly do not want to be "holier than thou", but for me it‘s relatively simple: I don‘t know all the facts - I only know what I‘ve seen in the media, and here. Also, I don‘t know the individual concerned.
Thus, it‘s easy for me to err on the side of discretion in this instance.

Certainly, smashing up a building with a vehicle is an unusual method of expression - no doubt about it. However, Canadian justice (both military and civilian) is supposed to examine incidents like these from a number of angles - circumstances, motive and prior record, to name but a few.

Thus, I‘m inclined to suggest we all wait and see what happens as due process takes place (i.e. I‘m not just saying this because it‘s Easter and I‘ve overdosed on chocolate bunnies, but ... before nailing anybody else to a cross, let‘s at least have a fair hearing).

Dileas Gu Brath,
M.B.
 
J

JRMACDONALD

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Gunner , I think the line was drawn at a rank level. a certain Maj Gen comes to mind!!!
 

Fishbone Jones

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I like to know more about this incident, it wasn‘t carried in the local papers. I do know the military is making tremendous efforts in the area of PTSD nowdays than before. Whether to cover their butts or out of a true sense of compassion for our returning service people, who knows? It‘s happening, that‘s the main thing. Like I say I don‘t know the particulars, cry for help or genuine effort to end it all? I do know from 3 friends that ate gun barrels (all civilian), one that hung himself (military) and one who drove into a wall(civilian), if you truly want to go, you seldom get caught.
 

bossi

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Here is somewhat of a summary from a media source (in response to "recceguy" wanting to know more about this story):

April 11, 2001


Former general to probe sick soldier‘s case
Suicide attempt alleged as man drove SUV into building


James Cudmore
National Post
EDMONTON - André Marin, the Canadian Forces ombudsman, yesterday appointed a high profile former general to investigate the case of a soldier who allegedly tried to commit suicide by driving his SUV through the front doors of a military headquarters in Edmonton.

Brigadier-General Joe Sharpe, who retired from the Canadian Forces in January, was asked to examine allegations Corporal Christian McEachern crashed his SUV into the Edmonton headquarters in a suicidal act of vengeance that resulted from shoddy treatment by the Canadian Forces.

"Joe Sharpe is just the perfect guy for this kind of work. He doesn‘t try to embellish matters, he says things the way they are, which is, I think, how he developed his credibility and his reputation," Mr. Marin said.

"He certainly has the confidence of the rank and file and I want to make sure people have confidence in the conduct of our investigation."

Cpl. McEachern faces five charges including impaired, dangerous and careless driving, assaulting a police officer and mischief as a result of the SUV incident. He has been on sick leave from his infantry battalion for two-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress resulting from peacekeeping deployments in Croatia and Rwanda.

Mr. Marin agreed to investigate the case last week following a meeting in Edmonton with Cpl. McEachern and Paula Richmond, his mother.

But yesterday Mr. Marin raised the profile of the case by appointing. Brig.-Gen. Sharpe, a popular and respected officer who previously headed a lengthy investigation into a 1993 Canadian deployment to Croatia, to assist in the case. In that investigation, Brig.-Gen. Sharpe concluded that a string of mysterious illnesses affecting Canadian soldiers who had served in Croatia were linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yesterday, Mr. Marin said it was his experience investigating PTSD that made the retired general a perfect candidate for the McEachern investigation.

"He‘s done a lot of work in this area and he‘s an individual who when he was in uniform was accepted as an expert on the topic by the military," Mr. Marin said. "I expect his investigation will tackle some very thorny and difficult issues."

In March, the National Post ran a story on PTSD in which Brig.-Gen. Sharpe criticized the Canadian Forces for neglecting soldiers who return from overseas violence stricken with the psychological disorder.

"I have to be candid, I get a little perturbed at how we treat some of our people," he said in the article.

Yesterday, Mrs. Richmond, who speaks on behalf of Cpl. McEachern, her son, said Brig.-Gen. Sharpe‘s straight but stern language had renewed her spirit after a Parliamentary defence committee refused to allow her to speak to them about her son‘s illness.

"I can‘t tell you how much hope General Sharpe gave me. This means so much to us," she said. Mrs. Richmond believes the general‘s appointment will benefit her son.

"He knows what he‘s talking about and we need knowledgeable people who know about post-traumatic stress disorder," she said. "He is sympathetic to the enlisted man, which really does a lot for my heart. How much better could that be?"

Contacted in Ottawa, Brig.-Gen. Sharpe, said after 35 years of service in the Canadian Forces he was happy to be working outside the system to help soldiers like Cpl. McEachern.

" I like people, I like working with people and I like solving their problems," he said.

"They need some place to go when things get really frustrating before they drive their SUVs into buildings."

Brig.-Gen. Sharpe said as a former military insider who had studied PTSD he was in a unique position to help the ombudsman‘s office better understand the pressures soldiers face on dangerous overseas peacekeeping missions.

"Hopefully, with my name recognition, perhaps a few other soldiers who are having difficulties will come forward," Brig.-Gen. Sharpe said.

"That‘s exactly the reason I was so keen on joining in."

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects people who have undergone highly stressful or dangerous events. It can result in nightmares, depression, acts of violence and suicide.

Yesterday, Cpl. McEachern was awarded two more medals from the Canadian Forces in recognition of his military service.

Mrs. Richmond said she found the presentation ironic coming less than a week after her son was charged: "The timing is really weird," she said.
 

Fishbone Jones

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bossi,
Thanks much for the info. Let‘s not judge and just hope this fella gets whatever help he needs. There but for the grace of God go we(to paraphrase). recceguy.
 
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123456

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I am confused about this PTSD issue. Firstly, can anyone tell me what this sickness is? How you get sick? What kind of help you need to get to get better? Some of you seem to indicate that he is on sick leave and spends all his time trying to get better. If I understand PTSD correctly, it‘s a psychological ailment caised by surviving a traumatic event that affects the brain in the same way a bullet wound would affect the body part it hit. I have read in a couple of places that some people consider it to be a war injury just like any other war injury. If this is the case, how can some of you take the moral high ground and pontificate that this guy should get over it and should have been more in control the night of the SUV incident. The fact that the military has a bunch of Doctors ready to give the guy pills does not necessarilly constitute "Good" care. What about the military itself (not doctors). How has the military acceptted this guy‘s injury? Has he been the laughing stock of the Regiment since he got sick? If so, what does that do to a guy who suffers from PTSD. My guess is it does not help. Having said that, I ask you now, is the military truly helping?
 

bossi

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The question posed by 123456 is not as simple or straightforward as one might think.
From my layman‘s perspective, mental health could perhaps be considered more of an "art" than an exact science - I simply do not think that "the final chapter" has been written on what we refer to now as PTSD, formerly known as "shell shock", or "combat fatigue", or even "Lacking Morale Fibre" (no - I‘m not making it up).
Historically, I suggest that armies were pioneers in "Critical Incident Stress" treatment - most simply put, it is nigh on impossible to effectively treat somebody unless "you were there" (either literally or figuratively) - I‘ve always marvelled at the incredible bond of affection the Old Comrades from my Regiment had for their wartime padre, and certainly he looked after their mental health (although padres usually refer to "souls" instead of technical, medical terminology).
In the same vein, veterans organisations allowed the vets to get together with others who‘d been through the wringer with them (even though they didn‘t know it, these Legion/VFW get-togethers were healthy in the context of CIS debriefings as opposed to individuals retreating into themselves).
But, what do I know (in comparison to the peacetime shrinks who got better marks than me in university and took all the requisite courses)?
Bottom line?
Leaders do the right thing - managers do things the right way.
Until we KNOW otherwise, it‘s probably wisest to err on the side of discretion/give the benefit of doubt - cut the guy some slack, hope the system is competent/capable (but, watch it carefully just in case cracks appear through which somebody could fall ...).

Dileas Gu Brath,
M.B.
 

bossi

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Purely by coincidence, a letter to the editor from today‘s National Post touches on this PTSD/CIS thread - Carbert mentions "... how soldiers reach for well-known images to try to explain their experience in war ..." (okay - maybe the connection is obtuse, however I do believe it relevant to our discussion - you can decide for yourself):

Calvary charge
Re: Nurse‘s Note Lends Credence to Story of Crucified Soldier, April 14. Iain Overton‘s piece misses the important questions that merit examination when we revisit the story of the "Crucified Canadian." Whether Sergeant Harry Band died from crucifixion or other means is not important. Millions died from 1914-1918 in countless ways. However, as Mr. Overton relates, the story of a wartime crucifixion spread quickly in 1915 and resonates today. In the face of death and horror, the crucifixion of a soldier, whether fact, propaganda or trench myth, would have been a powerful image. In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell explores the important role of myth and superstition among solders in WWI and cites the "Crucified Canadian" as an example. He reports how soldiers in northern France and Belgium were constantly reminded of the crucifixion by the calvaries at many rural crossroads. He also describes how the story of the "crucified Canadian" repeated itself in different variations during the war and that American troops in late WWII had a story of the "Crucified American." Sgt. Band‘s family can pursue how he died. Our efforts might be better applied to understanding how soldiers reach for well-known images to try to explain their experience in war. Finally, the Regiment‘s name is 48th Highlanders of Canada, not the 48th Canadian Highlanders. B.R. Carbert, Calgary.
 

Pikache

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once ideal soldier stands trial
Defence blames disorder
 
Charlie Gillis  
National Post


Thursday, November 14, 2002

CREDIT: The Canadian Press
 
Corporal Christian McEachern, shown on a 1994 peacekeeping mission in Croatia, drove his SUV into CFB Edmonton offices last year. Yesterday, his lawyer said he plans to use post-traumatic stress as a defence.
 
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EDMONTON - Corporal Christian McEachern was by all appearances healthy when he returned from Africa in 1996, having survived two of the toughest missions yet faced by Canadian peacekeepers.

But his real troubles were still to come. Over the next four years, Mr. McEachern, 32, would battle persistent memories of his own helplessness in the face of human carnage, he testified yesterday at his drunk-driving and assault trial, memories that robbed him of sleep, shattered his nerves and frequently left him sobbing.

"I started to experience severe chest pains.... I was very depressed," the stocky Calgarian told a silent courtroom, fighting to maintain composure. "I was having crying spells.... It was getting to the point where it was like someone was sticking a knife in my chest."

Finally, on March 14, 2001, he snapped. Early that morning, Mr. McEachern was found weeping and allegedly drunk at the wheel of a Nissan sport utility vehicle, having just ploughed through the doors of headquarters at CFB Edmonton and driven about the empty offices, toppling desks and file cabinets.

He was charged with impaired driving and mischief, as well as assaulting a peace officer for a brief scuffle with military police after his arrest. He was sent for a psychiatric evaluation.

Now, as Mr. McEachern's criminal trial unfolds in Court of Queen's Bench, the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doctors believe was plaguing him at the time represents his best hope against conviction, raising questions as to whether he knew what he was doing when he tore through the offices, and whether the military gave him the treatment he needed.

Mr. McEachern was diagnosed with PTSD in 1997 and was on leave from his unit in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry when the incident occurred.

Yesterday, Mr. McEachern's lawyer served notice that he plans to make post-traumatic stress a key plank in his defence, arguing that the PTSD left his client in a dissociative state the night of his rampage, resulting in actions for which he cannot be held criminally responsible.

"The question before the court is whether post-traumatic stress disorder as it manifests itself in this case is a defence in law," said David Cunningham. "Did PTSD manifest itself in the form of non-insane automatism which would, in this case, call for a finding of not guilty?"

Whatever part they played in his ill-fated drive through the payroll and personnel offices of base headquarters, Mr. McEachern's emotional difficulties have been on visible display in court.

The stocky, greying former soldier held his head and wept as his former common-law wife, Cherie Strome, laid out the pieces of their broken relationship, recalling "outbursts" against those around him. Once, she said, he punched a door.

"I honestly don't think he ever got a good night's sleep," added Ms. Strome, 27, who has since split with Mr. McEachern. "He was always getting up, I mean like two or three times a night. We'd wake up and his side of the bed would be totally drenched in sweat.

"He would tell me about his nightmares, usually something to do with bombs and grenades."

Mr. McEachern, for his part, frequently fought back tears as he recalled his missions in Croatia and Uganda, the latter an aborted assignment to Rwanda that saw him stuck for five weeks in a neighbouring and almost equally troubled land.

In a rambling, halting account, he said his 1994 tour in Croatia left him frightened and drained, as he saw several friends lose limbs to land mines in areas he regularly patrolled. One engineer attached to his outfit was blown to pieces in a field he and his team guarded, he said.

In Uganda, he witnessed the rape of a woman, yet was refused permission to intervene because Canadian commanders felt they had no business in Ugandan affairs, he said. The contingent never left its bivouac in Entebbe to guard aid convoys in Rwanda, he noted; they left the region dispirited and stressed out.

Mr. McEachern also spoke of his frequent nightmares, which reprised his tour and training experiences. "There's the one with the grenade that lands beside me and fails to go off," he said. "Sometimes it does, and sometimes I have this kind of sluggishness that prevents me from moving. It's like you have a piano tied behind your back."

Mr. McEachern said he felt ostracized by his comrades after a doctor diagnosed him with PTSD, as most soldiers regarded the disorder as a sign of weakness. Even the military's decision to award him medals for his African service failed to console him, court heard: Hours after receiving them, he climbed into his father-in-law's Nissan Xterra and drove into the building, his lawyer acknowledged in court.

A doctor testified Mr. McEachern told him he had drunk between eight to 10 beers that night.

By December, 2001, Mr. McEachern's superiors had released him from the military on the grounds he could no longer meet minimum performance standards.

"It's a death warrant," Mr. McEachern said when asked how the PTSD diagnosis would affect his career. "Anyone considered to be anything but an ideal soldier is considered weak."

cgillis@nationalpost.com

******

Definitely not good.

My question is how bad is situations like this? I've heard some cases, but is it really bad?
 

Gunner

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You chose your action, you chose your consequence. I have no sympathy for McEachern and his attempts at escaping from responsibility.
 

Spr.Earl

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Gunner your comment is unwarrented, I feel as you are not in this man‘s shoe‘s.

If I‘m out of place let me know,he was an infanteer,you are a gunner, two differant world‘s,on average those who see the most over sea‘s are infateer‘s then come the engineer‘s.

When I came off tour my wife saw the change in me and sought help with out my knowledge and helped me to come down and return to normal and understood what a sodier‘s goes through,I was lucky I never saw or experienced what this man has done or seen.

Yet when I was with the Reg. I have had a few good friend‘s open up to me and cry while they told me what they have seen and being helpless just because of U.N. R.O.E.‘s

Please have a little for thought and compassion for those who have seen and lived the **** that man can inflict on their fellow man.
 
H

Harry

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Spr. IMHO, your out of place...

Unlike some, I actually was in Rwanda, 94-95, UNAMIR II. Near the end of my tour I deployed to Uganda for the Air and Rail Head Ops. A veritable tropical vacation compared to the previous 6 months.

I had been responsible for my actions prior and since. And ironically, I have bettered myself as a result of that experience.

You don‘t know how good things are until you experience something like that.

And if you must know, I know a little more about this particular story than the average bear. Read the actual Ombudsman Report into this, you may discover who I am.
 

Gunner

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Spr Earl, yes you are out of line. PTSD has the sum of *^&* all to do with your MOC and how many times you have been overseas. I don‘t dispute McEachern having PTSD. I do dispute the PTSD defence and his "poor me" attitude.

He chose his actions leading up to his arrest. Now, he is not willing to accept responsibility for his actions and instead blames everyone else.

He has always struck me as a very weak and immature person. His action simply show my impression to be accurate. His Mother is another topic entirely....
 
C

Cdn Soldier

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Now, now Gunner. Don‘t be dissing the Moma, Moma‘s are saints. Although I did ROFLMAO when I read this quote this morn‘ in the Sun on-line:

"That set off another firestorm as McEachern‘s mother, Paula Richmond, angrily lashed out at the Crown for the delay, suggesting it could affect her son‘s condition.

"If anything happens to that boy, I swear to God ...," she said. "You don‘t have to answer the phone, do you?" "

Oh, oh...don‘t be lending him your car for the weekend Moma!
 
H

Harry

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Uh huh.

This is a touchy enough subject.

Especially for the arm chair quarterbacks.

If you haven‘t been anywhere other than, say, downtown and your overseas stuff has been Administrative Patrolling in the Balkans.

DND/CF is hoping that the civvie court will blow him out of the water and then use this as the standard for all other type cases.

If it goes in his favor, there will be a large refocus by the org to look like they are taking the care of soldiers serious. The P&P happened after the renovations, **** I think at any given time there were a minimum of 7 or 8 BOI‘s, summaries, and other type investigation/reports being conducted.

What was funny is that some didn‘t quit jive with the higher profile ones. Hmm, little bit of bias perchance, either way.

Suffice it to say, there are lots of dynamics involved, beyond the individual and his mother.

Regardless, if any of you, no matter what did something stupid. I have a feeling that your mother would be there to protect you as well.

So unless you can stand up and say. Been there done that, recommend you stow it and lets see how the trial goes.

Hmm, is that Gunny I hear coming? :eek:
 
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