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What is Canada's first veterans' monument dedicated to those suffering from PTSD and homelessness?

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The first Canadian monument dedicated to those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and homelessness can be found along the Trans-Canada Highway in the city of Kirkland on the West Island of Montréal, Québec, where it can be seen by more than 100,000 passengers daily. The "Trans Canada Respect Monument" which includes a sculpture called "The Return" was unveiled on 21 October 2017 by the 'Respect Campaign' marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montréal and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Designed and sculpted by the internationally known Canadian artist Colonel (Retired) André D. Gauthier, OMM, CD (1935-26 October 2017), the bronze statue depicts a Second World War veteran "who has come home from war with his arm extended offering a victory/peace sign. He has returned. He stands to remind us that for many who come home there is no victory. They have not found peace. They remain in the conflict where they were serving. They have not returned home. They should not be left behind." As written on the granite pedestal, "this monument honours the service of our men and woman of the Canadian Armed Forces, past, present and future. We honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving Canada, those who have been injured and the families whose lives have been forever changed. The monument stands for the respect of those who continue to suffer long after the conflict is over and their duty is done. It serves as witness and as a reminder of our veterans who suffer from PTSD and those homeless on our streets. We honour the sacrifices of those who's pain and suffering has made them a casualty of suicide."

The basis of the 'Respect Campaign' began in October 2011, when Mr. Doug Bellevue, President of Task Micro-Electronics Inc. affixed a twenty-foot Respect Banner on his corporate headquarters along the Trans-Canada Highway in Kirkland. To Mr. Bellevue, the banner was a display of respect for Canadian military and veterans. Subsequent to the initial banner display, Mr. Bellevue tested out a section of the Trans-Canada Highway working in conjunction with Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Robinson CD, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Gregory MSM, and Major Richard Gratton CD. That successful endeavour sparked the founding of the Respect Campaign, a partnership with Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services along with Canada Company for the corporate banner Campaign chaired by Steve Gregory. In addition to the commissioning of this monument, the founders have been holding forums with various charities and defense associations to establish a coordinated allocation of resources for veterans requiring support.

It should be noted that the first ever memorial for veterans who have lost their battles with PTSD is a project undertaken by Michael Tellerino, CEO/Founder of K9s for Veterans in the United States. On 22 July 2016, the village of Channahon, Illinois announced that it had been chosen by this non-profit group as the location to display "The Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall". Although it was planned to be opened at Channahon State Park in November 2017, concrete foundations for the flag poles were completed on 21 July 2017 and a flag raising ceremony was held on 5 August 2017 at the future site of the memorial. The Memorial Wall was officially unveiled in the presence of about 250 local people on 11 May 2019 and is a tribute to all veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and have been afflicted with PTSD and sacrificed their lives beyond the limits of active duty. The memorial honours the five branches of the U.S. military and consists of a circle of polished granite stone monuments and flags and include personalized memorial bricks which provide structural and financial support for the monument. The cost was more than $80,000 US to construct and was funded through private donations. Channahon was selected due to its easy access from the Chicago metropolitan area and the organization also wanted the memorial to be relatively close to Marseilles, which is home to the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial along the Illinois River.

On this day, 21 October 2021, we commemorate the fourth anniversary of the unveiling of Canada's first permanent monument in Kirkland, Québec that honours the service of those men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, past, present and future and stands for the respect of those who continue to suffer from PTSD and homelessness long after the conflict is over and their duty is done.

André M. Levesque

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