The following is a statement from the husband of the deceased, Cpl. (ret’d) Leona MacEachern CD, on behalf of her immediate family.

This is formal acknowledgment of the actual events on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 on Highway 22 west of Calgary.

At 1:50 p.m. a Pontiac Grand Am travelling north just south of the Trans-Canada Highway interchange crossed the centre line and was impacted head-on by a transport truck travelling southbound.

The roads were clear at the time and Cochrane RCMP had communicated that alcohol, road conditions and speed were not factors.

The driver of the car was pronounced dead on the scene. She was 51-year-old Leona MacEachern of Calgary, Alta. Fortunately the two occupants of the tractor trailer unit were not seriously hurt. We extend our sympathies to those occupants and hope they are able to forgive the tragedy that came their way that day.

The fact is that this was NOT an accident. It was an intentional final desperate act of a Canadian Armed Forces Veteran who was undergoing treatment for PTSD related “Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified” (since early in 2013).

The extent of this treatment was to see a psychologist for 45 minutes a week to “assist in reaching your goal of symptom management.”

We would like to say that Leona had slipped through the cracks in the system but, in fact, there does not seem to be “a system.” When symptoms became worse she was referred into the Alberta Public Health care system which was even worse. Various medications led to new side-effects and symptoms and assessments were done on lock-down psychiatric wards alongside the deeply disturbed and those under observation in relation to criminal matters. A couple of visits to emergency rooms when she reported suicidal thoughts were met with a quick visit by the “crisis team” who then sent her home.

Finally, after a long wait she was admitted to the Centennial Centre in Ponoka, Alta., where brain injuries are also considered and investigated for persons with deteriorating conditions. There was hope for a few brief days. She was allowed to be home for Christmas but we learned later that she was in transition between medications at the time. No specific instructions were communicated to the family.

We believe her PTSD symptoms manifested themselves as the result of some protracted battles with Veterans affairs to obtain medical benefits for issues arising from dental work in the late 1980s while stationed in Germany during the first Gulf War. Metals used in fashioning a quick replacement tooth (that were banned from use in Germany shortly after) she believed, had contributed to a confirmed diagnosis of geographic tongue. Other symptoms following the dental work included an increased sensitivity to smells, taste and frequent vomiting. There was also speculation that the high levels of air pollution in Lahr, Germany, may have contributed to her hyper-sensitivities. Conspiracy theorists suggest that soldiers in that conflict may have been injected with some kind of anti-chemical warfare agent that later manifested itself with PTSD-like symptoms. Some of her symptoms did bear a striking resemblance to what American soldiers in that conflict suffered as Gulf War Syndrome in the numbers approaching 300,000.

Once the tooth was removed in 2011, some of these symptoms abated somewhat and she began the fight to get replacement dental work done.

Department of National Defence could not locate files of the original dental procedure so the claim was simply rejected several times through to the end of the appeals process.

Whatever the initial cause was, what began as a process to attempt to get compensation ended up in a deteriorating mental state that stemmed from:

  • A feeling that she was being dismissed without proper investigation of causes of her mouth pain for almost 20 years.
  • Re-engaging in the formal bureaucratic process meant she had to re-visit this and several other un-pleasantries from service in the past.
  • Her first long stint in regular Forces as a Military policewomen ended when she was harassed and forced out when she started to bring certain incidents to light (See: Ottawa Citizen circa 1993 – “It’s still a Man’s Army”)
  • She spent most of her adult life in the Armed Forces and had difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life.

Regardless of the validity of her claims, there was little doubt that there were adjustment issues to civilian life and the recent news of other CF members who had taken their lives played on her mind as well.

The family has decided to release these facts because:

  • She felt there was no hope as no-one seemed to be addressing the root causes of her condition.
  • PTSD has reached epidemic proportions. In receiving condolences from her military family across the nation and in Afghanistan we have learned of many more members who have sought this solution and gone unreported or having been misclassified.
  • We believe she wanted it known that this was her sacrifice so her family could move on, and that was why she picked this date (Dec. 25). In her mind, this was a gift.

Other Comments:

To those who cite the explanation, ‘The rate of suicides in the Military is the same or only slightly higher as the general population,” we respond: ‘Are those general population statistics all people who were top students, pillars of their community, fierce patriots, persons who devoted their lives specifically to honor and uphold the values of justice and equality in this once great nation?”

A few other comments in our family during this discussion and worthy of mention…

  • “Whatever happened to our military hospital system?”
  • “The Second World War vets support mechanism was the ENTIRE population, no-one was untouched by that conflict… everyone was in it together and everyone pulled through it together…. Also, we had a clear enemy.”
  • “Our politicians need to stop the partisan infighting and jockeying for the best re-election sound bites and actually do something that benefits the nation, not themselves.”
  • “We aren’t out to lay blame or criticize the individuals working in Veterans Affairs or the health care system. These people are suffering too, trying to make the most with their ever dwindling resources. Too many bad decisions are being made by disconnected politicians and unaccountable mandarins at both federal and provincial levels.”
  • “If we as a country cannot solve this together… we are in for far worse times ahead in this quickly changing world.”
  • Check this online forum post from 2001 and tell me what’s changed?

Incidentally, Cpl. Christian McEachern is of no relation.