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Disorder takes toll on former military staff


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Disorder takes toll on former military staff

Transition to civilian life often hard after stressful time in the field

By Richard Watts, Times Colonist September 2, 2012

Terri Orser first realized something was wrong when she put on her uniform combat fatigues and started to tremble.
The Colwood woman, now 49, was a career servicewoman and a sergeant. She had joined the army at 17 and spent two tours in the former Yugoslavia where shooting took place nightly. Before that, she had been in the Middle East during the first Gulf War, where sirens went off every night warning of missile attacks.

In the former Yugoslavia, members of her unit had been killed; another lost both his legs.
And on one occasion, as the only woman in the unit, Orser was ordered to sit with a badly burned cook needing evacuation after a propane explosion. (She figures the job fell to her because her comrades thought she would be more sympathetic.)

She was later deployed for a number of years to South Africa on diplomatic duty and rarely had to even wear a uniform.

But in 1999, back in Canada, Orser reached for a set of camouflage fatigues.

After putting them on, she started to shake.

"I had no idea what was going on," she said.

Back then, few people admitted to post-traumatic stress disorder. And it took time to even ask for help.

"I felt ashamed," she said.

"It was - 'How could you have PTSD?' " Orser said.

"You've been here and there, witnessed this and that, and now, you're falling apart.' "

On the job, it felt as if everybody around her was ignorant and making endless demands. After work, all she wanted to do was sleep.
She recalls sitting in a doctor's office and suddenly breaking down in tears. The doctor told her as a sergeant, she had to pull herself together. But some psychological assistance was arranged, including a three-month group session to deal with her PTSD.

But Orser was forced to retire about five years ago with the rank, and pension, of warrant officer. The transition has been difficult.
She has since lost her home and now lives and works at Cockrell House, a Colwood facility for homeless veterans supported by the Canadian Legion Foundation.

Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Disorder+takes+toll+former+military+staff/7180610/story.html#ixzz25JslCsYE