The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

LIVE at ATSS’ 2010 Conference: Day 1

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It was an emotional start to Day one of ATSS’s 2010 conference — “Safely in Our Hands:  Helping Our Helpers Stay Healthy”– here in Toronto, Canada. During the conference’s welcome remarks, ATSS President Kent Laidlaw began to explain some of the cultural differences that exist between Canada and the neighboring United States.

Sure there are subtle but noticeable differences in the way both Canadians and Americans speak, the money is different, and we all know how much Canadians love their hockey, but as both countries have been entrenched in the war against terror in the Middle East, mainly Afghanistan, perhaps the greatest cultural divide is in the way each country views the return of their fallen soldiers.

While this conference is largely about you, the “helpers,” explained Laidlaw, it’s also going to focus on the military, and how we can help those who return with traumatic scars.

To expand upon both the military focus of the conference and the cultural divide that exists between Canada and the United States, Laidlaw showed a short but riveting video to all of this year’s attendees. The video was of Canadians citizens welcoming home their soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the conflicts overseas.

While the U.S. remains highly guarded and secretive in the manner in which their soldiers return to their final resting place, the video Laidlaw played this morning showed everyone just how different each country views the return of their fallen soldiers.

How is it different?

American soldiers who have perished on the battle field return in a plane that travels under the cover of darkness, explained Laidlaw. They fly directly into an enclosed hanger, and security is tight so that no onlookers can capture photos of the caskets.

Yet in Canada, citizens line the runway at Trenton Air Force Base, and they line the roads of the approximately 100-mile travel route from the Air Force base to the coroner’s office in Toronto. Proud and patriotic Canadians wave their native flag and they salute their fellow countrymen in an emotional sign of appreciation and respect.

Why is it different?

Laidlaw, a native Canadian, said he couldn’t really answer that question. It could be a cultural divide, or maybe it’s a political divide. What we do know is that citizens of the United States continue to be very divided on how their fallen soldiers should return home. While some have pushed for the openness the Canadians have shown, others believe that the transports should remain private, out of the view of the public eye. 

Cultural divides aside, the vast majority of each country remains committed to supporting those who have and will continue to serve, and especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.

As the video concluded, and as many wiped away their tears, Laidlaw said that “We wanted to start with this video to set the tone for the conference.”

Mission accomplished.

We’ll be sharing more about this year’s conference as the days go. Stay tuned.

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Written by traumalines

September 30, 2010 at 11:03 am

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