Military to investigate suicides of 2 soldiers with ties to CFB Shilo
Published Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:05PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:30PM EST
The deaths of two soldiers who apparently died of suicide, and who were linked to the same Manitoba base, have sparked an investigation and raised questions about the treatment of Canadian veterans.
Friends say Master Cpl. William Elliott died this week at his home, just outside the Canadian Forces Base Shilo.
Elliott suffered back injuries in 2006 while in Afghanistan and feared that the military would force him out, his friend Cpl. Glen Kirkland told CTV News.
“It’s quite a tragic loss that I was told should have been, could have been prevented,” said Kirkland, who has publicly fought National Defence over discharging soldiers against their will, before they qualified for a pension.
“(Elliott) didn’t know how he was going to be financially looked after for his injuries,” Kirkland said.
“He came to me a few times, saying he was having issues. I can't speak on his behalf, but I do know he was carrying some baggage.”
Another soldier who was previously based at CFB Shilo, Travis Halmrast, died on Monday in Lethbridge, Alta., after attempting suicide in jail three days earlier. He was being held on allegations of domestic assault.
A family friend suggested Halmrast lived with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday that the military is investigating the circumstances of both soldiers’ deaths.
There is no evidence that the deaths are linked, but veterans’ advocates say they raise red flags about how the government handles wounded soldiers and those with mental health issues.
“When (soldiers) do come and seek assistance, if it’s not there for them, it’s like tripping them,” Barry Westholm of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy told CTV News.
“They fall flat on their face and that worsens the whole PTSD experience.”
In 2007, Elliott received a special citation for bravery and valor against Taliban forces during his military service.
Three years later, he was court-martialed for shooting his weapon at a colleague. He spent 10 days in jail and paid a $500 fine.
Just three weeks ago, Kirkland said Elliott told him he was concerned about being discharged from the force.
Kirkland said the way the system is set up, coming forward with PTSD is “one step closer to being unemployed with the military.”
The military has confirmed that neither soldier was a member of the Joint Personnel Support Unit, which is supposed to prepare wounded soldiers to either return to their front-line units or be discharged from the military.
The defence minister has previously insisted that no soldiers are being summarily dismissed and that members of the force are "prepared" for transition to civilian life.
With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan, CTV Winnipeg’s Josh Crabb and files from The Canadian Press