Stephane Marcotte served in the Canadian Navy for 28 years, 18 of which took place deep below the surface of the ocean in a submarine. For his remaining 10 years, he was above the water on ships and teaching.
In 2017, he was finally able to retire from his life of service, only to carry with him post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from various missions and the Gulf War in 2002.
For Marcotte, Remembrance Day is an opportunity to honour the lives of service people lost and express gratefulness for those that were not, including his own.
His life he said, he owes to the programs and resources provided by Wounded Warriors Canada.
As a volunteer and beneficiary of the organization, he is able to speak to the power of their programs.
“I retired in 2017, and ever since I’ve been doing some volunteer work and more and more with Wounded Warriors,” Marcotte said. “I talk about how I’m kind of living proof of what the program does. It’s helping me, my mental health and helped me to procure a service dog and so I can go out and have a quality of life. That’s what Wounded Warriors did for me – they gave me a quality of life and a life.”
He began working with Wounded Warriors because he said other things, such as psychology, were just not working.
The equine couples program helped him and his wife Susan learn how to communicate with each other to truly understand the other.
“We needed something to help us understand each other,” Marcotte said. “The second course we took was a five-day course. It was an in-person attendance at Bear Mountain for five days. It was a couples COPE program – Couples Overcoming PTSD Every day. During that time, she could really understand what I was going through and she could understand me more and that’s one of the reasons probably why we are still together.”
A combination of joint and solo programs specialized for spouses helped build their communication skills, giving them the ability to truly understand each other even through the challenges of PTSD.
For the last nine years, the Marcottes have worked with the organization helping with the annual Wounded Warrior Run B.C., which goes the length of Vancouver Island to raise money for the same programs that saved Stephane’s life and the Marcottes’ marriage.
“We run between 600 and 700 kilometres in eight days to raise money and awareness for the veterans and first responders and their families,” he said.
Not only did Wounded Warriors give Marcotte purpose and drive – the organization helped him get his service dog, Sarge, during one of their events at Bear Mountain.
“In that event, they had a Vancouver Island Compassion Dog Society – they are a service dog provider, they were there and I saw a dog. His name was Hunter, I bent over and he just licked my face and I just started to cry. I was so relieved. So then I said ‘I need a dog.’ I’d never had a dog in my life. That day I put my application in and three months later I was starting the program – that changed my life, me and my family – my marriage. It saved my life personally, I’m still here because of my dog.”
From helping him overcome anxiety to alerting him when his blood sugar is low, Sarge has impacted Marcotte’s life in profound ways.
“He can get me out of the house,” he said. “I can enjoy life outside of my house without always looking behind me to see if somebody is coming to hurt me. When I have nightmares from different events in my life and in service, he wakes me up and grounds me and that’s a great tool.”
The benefits of Wounded Warriors programs and events that Marcotte has attended far surpass just happiness and security. They’ve ensured that he is able to be around for another Remembrance Day, to celebrate his continued fight in the face of PTSD and to remember those he’s lost – both at home and abroad.
“It’s one day we can remember what sacrifice all service persons did for us to give us freedom and liberty. It’s not always overseas, we lose people here in Canada as well, so it’s something to remember them as well. A lot of people, they’re gone too soon so we have to remember that they’re gone for us and our children.”