Jason Mullis waited patiently for the funeral to end. People paid their respects at a coffin draped with the Canadian flag and with flowers all around the gravesite.
“I knew something was different,” he said, “so I stood there for … hours waiting for everyone to leave.”
That’s when he finally spoke to Denise, the mother of the deceased veteran being buried. Mullis simply wanted to offer his assistance to her. He recognized the difficulties she might have faced as the mother of a former soldier who died by suicide.
On Sept. 25, people from across the GTA gathered at the Royal Canadian Legion, Todmorden Branch 10, to pay their respects to soldiers who have taken their own lives. Jason Mullis, funding representative of Honour Our Canadian Soldiers (HOCS), said the ceremony at the Legion was also intended to raise awareness about the issue and its significance.
“They have to be recognized as fallen soldiers, not suicide soldiers, as some people are saying,” Mullis said. “There is a stigma still.”
HOCS is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing support to veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The organization also offers support to veteran family members, such as Denise, who has lost a loved-one by an act of suicide because of PTSD.
“We’re not here for the military. We’re not here for Canada,” Mullis said. “We’re here for the fallen soldiers’ families.”
Mullis is also a victim of PTSD, but never fought in Afghanistan or Iraq. He developed PTSD after being hit by a truck in his hometown of Guelph in 2007. He attempted to take his own life a number of times, but with the help of others he managed to overcome the traumatic stress.
Mullis and his organization travelled from Guelph to attend Sunday’s ceremony in order to offer assistance to families coping with PTSD. He encouraged veterans to speak about it.
“We want the families to know that they’re never alone,” he said. “And to the soldiers (who) are at that point, (who) think it’s the best way out, know (that) there are people there for you.”