Veteran Stories

Andrei Roberge: Transition tips from a Canadian Veteran who did it twice

veteran transition tips

Transition tips from a Canadian Veteran who did it twice: Like many Veterans, Andrei’s career in the Canadian Armed Forces took him around the world. Today, he continues to operate internationally, planning logistics and managing operations for Team Rubicon. This organization mobilizes Veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises, around the world. These can range from hurricanes in the Caribbean to flooding in Alberta, and any place in between.

Andrei’s military career began when he joined the infantry reserve in 1997, at the age of 17. He was in basic training on his 18th birthday. “It was an occasion that was short on cake,” he recalls.

He fit in well with the Reserves, serving in 2000 in Bosnia. He transferred to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and was again in Bosnia in 2002.

Andrei attended the University of Manitoba under the University Training Plan for Non-Commissioned Members. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he was commissioned as a Logistics Officer and assigned to the First Service Battalion.

Later, as a member of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, he was deployed to Afghanistan, Libya, Africa and Europe. After five years in CSOR, he returned to the regular army in 2014 as a Reserve Force liaison officer, and then released for the first time in 2014.

He returned to the CAF by 2017, and spent three years with the Fourth Canadian Division Headquarters in Toronto. In July 2020, he left CAF for medical reasons
Today, he lives near Toronto with his wife Jillian, who completed medical school in 2016 and is now in her final year of medical residency, and his daughter, Lauren, 9.

Transition: good and…not so good

So what was the difference between the transitions in 2014 and 2020?

“My transition in 2014 was … not very good. There was no support. One day you’re in the service, the next you’re out. There was no guidance. I felt a bit bitter about it,” he recalls.

Making the transition for the second time, in 2020, was completely different, especially with the pandemic. “I had low expectations, but my case manager was amazing,” Andrei says. (continue reading)

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The Story of a Woman Veteran, Jessica Coulter – Wounded Worrier Project


Jessica Coulter is one of the woman veteran of the Air Force but was never wounded in combat. So she didn’t feel worthy of turning to the Veterans Affairs hospital for a handout. But eventually, it got to the point where she could no longer buy food for herself and her two children. She realized that it was time to ask for help.

A Veteran Affairs social worker heard her story –a single mother, unable to find a steady job dealing with stress and anxiety. She was handed a Wal-Mart gift card from Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to help buy food.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I had no money, no child support and here they were wanting to help me.”

The help from the WWP in 2010 began with a gift card,. Then it grew into a way for Jessica to understand herself and her struggles. It helped her realize how a sexual assault in 2000 that she never reported was really affecting her daily life.

The assault happened one year after joining the Air Force, when Jessica and her friends at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois threw a barbecue to celebrate the weekend.

Jessica says a friend, who was a military police officer, sexually assaulted her in her barracks room. It brought on a flood of guilt, confusion and resentment.

She wanted to tell her supervisor, but after witnessing the treatment of other sexual assault victims, it didn’t seem possible.

“I felt like I couldn’t tell him what happened, because he’d say it was my fault,” Jessica says. “There were a lot of accusations of sexual assault at the time, and you’d hear stories of the treatment of the women. I didn’t see a way around it.”

Deployments and Trauma

Despite the trauma, Jessica completed one overseas deployment to Saudi Arabia in 2000, married in 2001, and gave birth to two sons. In the end, She moved into the reserves in 2007 and left the military in 2009.

The stress from a frequent-deployment tempo and Jessica’s anxiety from her untreated trauma led to separation and ultimately divorce from her husband.

When she moved back to her hometown of Newport, Rhode Island, Jessica struggled with confusion, anxiety, and difficulty keeping a job. Without steady income, she came close to homelessness. (continue reading)

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After 70 Years, Ranger Legend and Korean War Veteran Ralph Puckett Receives Medal of Honor

Korean War Veteran standing next to a military vehicle

Korean War veteran Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. was honored at the White House on Friday. He received the Medal of Honor for his acts of “conspicuous gallantry” during the war. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is in town to conduct diplomatic talks with President Biden, attended the ceremony.

The former soldier is being honored for his heroism on Nov. 25 and 26 in 1950. As a young lieutenant, he led 51 Army Rangers and nine Korean soldiers to seize a key hill overlooking the Chongchon River in what is now North Korea.

Retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett waited more than 70 years to receive the nation’s highest award for combat valor. And when he got word that he’d be presented with the Medal of Honor, he questioned why the White House would go to all the trouble of presenting it to him.

“I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask ‘why all the fuss … can’t they just mail it to me?'”

Your lifetime of service to our nation…

“Col. Puckett, after 70 years rather than mail it to you I would have walked it to you,” Biden said. “Your lifetime of service to our nation I think deserves a little bit of fuss.”President Joe Biden quipped at Friday’s presentation ceremony. “I’m incredibly proud to give Col. Ralph Puckett’s acts of valor the full recognition they have always deserved.”

In late November 1950, Puckett found himself and his platoon facing a barrage of enemy fire as his unit attempted to carry out a daylight attack. Faced with the advancing counterattack, Puckett emerged from his position and ran three times into an open area to attract the attention of Chinese forces, allowing his fellow soldiers to identify the other side and destroy their positions.

Later that night, Puckett again played a leading position in his battalion’s offensive during a four-hour firefight. Puckett injured first by grenade fragments and later more grievously injured by enemy mortar, severely limiting his mobility. (continue reading)

At 100, WWII and Korean War veteran honored for his place in Marine Corps history

man in marine corps uniform at 100 with medals and microphone

Korean War veteran honored: The Vista, California, veteran turned 100 on Tuesday and is one of the few surviving Marine veterans who marched 55 miles from Camp Elliott in San Diego to christen the newly opened base near Oceanside in September 1942.

He also fought with Camp Pendleton-based divisions in some of the Corps’ most defining and deadly battles of World War II and the Korean War, including at Iwo Jima, Bougainville, the Pusan Perimeter, the Inchon Landing and the Chosin Reservoir.

“John was a part of history with a capital H,” said local historian Linda Dudik of San Marcos, who runs the historical website The World War II Experience. Dudik taught history for 34 years at Palomar College and has devoted her post-retirement years since 2009 to collecting and re-telling the stories of aging war veterans like Farritor.

Smartly attired in his medal-bedecked dress blues uniform and cap, Farritor was guest of honor at a birthday celebration Tuesday morning at Pacifica Senior Living in Vista, where he has lived since 2010. A group of young Marines from Camp Pendleton, as well as friends and fellow residents gathered to hear about Farritor’s Marine Corps experiences in a slide-show presentation presented by Dudik, a longtime friend.

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Italian veteran of World War I preserved story of immigration to US

Jasper Cadice - Italian Veteran

Vic Cadice, of Jefferson City, Missouri-US, recalls admonishments from his father that included staying out of trouble as not to defame yourself, your country, your family name, and remaining focused on earning a good education.

Vic Cadice, of Jefferson City, recalls admonishments from his father that included staying out of trouble as not to defame yourself, your country, your family name, and remaining focused on earning a good education.

These teachings were the result of his father’s experiences in his native Italy and were highlighted by two brothers serving on separate continents for the same cause during World War I, along with a fascinating immigration story.

Gaspere “Jasper” Cadice was born Dec. 17, 1898, in the historic city of Marsala in western Sicily in Italy. When he was only 10 years old, Jasper’s father traveled to the United States to find employment and earn enough money to bring over his wife and four children.

Born in Sicily in 1898, Jasper Cadice’s immigration to Missouri was delayed with the outbreak of World War I and his service in the Italian (Allied) army. He later met the sister of an Italian grocer in St. Louis, and married and raised three sons. (continue reading)

Italian Army veteran, 81, serenades wife at hospital window due to Covid rules


Stefano Bozzini, an Italian army veteran, serenaded his wife at her hospital window to show his support, despite not being able to visit her due to local coronavirus restrictions.(watch the video)

This story deserved to have a happy ending—but, tragically, it wasn’t to be. Earlier this month, footage of Stefano Bozzini serenading wife Carla from outside a hospital in Italy went viral. Bozzini was filmed playing songs he said told their love story in the courtyard of the hospital in Castel San Giovanni. Carla was discharged after the video melted hearts around but world, but, according to The Guardian, she has now died. Carla was 74 and the couple had been married for 47 years. She spent over a week in the hospital getting tests for cancer—the hospital doesn’t treat COVID patients but visitors aren’t allowed inside in case they bring in the virus, so Stefano comforted her from outside. The husband, who used to be in the Italian army’s mountain infantry, said he had lost his “alpine star.” (read more)

How Kirkcaldy became a new home for Polish war veterans

people posed in front of a building

The Polish Club in Kirkcaldy, Fife, has been a centre of social and cultural life for almost 70 years. It was founded by veterans who were unable to return home after fighting in World War Two.

The club still provides an extended family to the children and grandchildren of those soldiers – along with a new generation of Polish migrants.

The community is now trying to buy the building before it goes on the open market. Here, we look back at some of the stories of the club’s members.

Zygmunt Jaworski arrived in Scotland in 1945 after serving with the 1st Armoured Division during World War Two.

Because he had fought for the Allies against the German forces, he was unable to return home to his wife Anna and daughter in Poland.

He set up a new life in Kirkcaldy, marrying a Scottish woman, Betty, and working as a miner and then a bus driver for Alexander and Sons.

Zygmunt became one of the founding members of the Polish Club in 1953 and spent most of his time there, when not at work. (continue reading)

‘Ayla: The Daughter of War’

turkish korean war veteran with his wife and the korean family

The touching real-life tale of a Turkish sergeant who saves a small Korean girl becomes long, heart-tugging fiction in Ayla: The Daughter of War, directed by Can Ulkay. The story is well-known both in South Korea and in Turkey, and was told in the 2010 South Korean doc Kore Ayla, which inspired the present film. A documentary feeling still persists in Yigit Guralp’s screenplay, which struggles to stay focused while faithfully recounting a passel of real-life incidents.

Ismail Hacioglu headlines a professional Turkish cast as the patriotic, level-headed but warm-hearted young officer, with little Kim Seol (who made her bow as a toddler on South Korean TV) in the role of the adorable Ayla and a cameo by a distinguished Eric Roberts as Lt. Gen. John Breitling Coulter, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Korea. Turkey proposed the film for the foreign-language Oscar, a calculated choice but one that didn’t make the shortlist amid many other films about children and war. Its next stop is the Palm Springs film festival, where it is likely to be a crowd-pleaser. (read the story)

Former POWs are now fighting for their captor’s citizenship

two US pilots sitting together with their Iraqi captor

On Nov. 15, 2012, five men sat down for dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill in Crystal City, Virginia. Dressed in shirts and ties, they could’ve easily passed for old friends or business partners, reminiscing on days past. Their friendly conversation gave no hint to the fact that just two decades earlier, three of these men were enemies in the first Gulf War.

It was the first time former Navy pilots Bob Wetzel, 60, and Jeff Zaun, 58, had seen Layth Muneer since the deserts of Iraq in 1991, when their plane was shot down and Muneer, a former major general in the Iraqi Air Force, stopped search parties of Iraqi security forces from killing them.

Muneer brought order to the chaotic capture of Zaun and Wetzel, had them taken away in his personal car, and treated them well, Zaun said. The treatment deteriorated only after the POWs were transferred to Iraq leader Saddam Hussein’s secret police in Baghdad.

About two decades later, the general came to the United States seeking asylum, and with the help of a friend, eventually reconnected with Zaun, who has met him several times – often with Wetzel – to talk about the war that brought them together.

Now, almost another decade later, Muneer, 74, is still in the U.S. and struggling to be granted asylum, let alone get a green card. Wetzel and Zaun are committed to helping their captor-turned-friend become a citizen.

Muneer, whose son now serves in the U.S. Army, “did what he was supposed to do, treating us like POWs,” Zaun said. “I don’t have any animosity. We’re friends now.” (read more)