My visit to Pembroke on November 19 to sign copies of Combat Mission Kandahar was great. I sold some books and I had many interesting discussions in the Pembroke Mall with passers-by, not only with local residents but also with members of the military who live in Pembroke or were in town from CFB Petawawa. I was quite pleased that some of the presently-serving soldiers, who I am sure know Afghanistan better than me, wanted to buy the book. I think they felt that, by publishing Combat Mission Kandahar, the mission was not forgotten.
These meetings impressed on me how the small town of Pembroke is really influenced by the base. On later reflection, however, it seemed that something other than the theme of my book was often and surprisingly turning up in the discussions - that is, how the daily lives of many in Petawawa are affected by PTSD. I had avoided writing about PTSD because it is such an enormous and complex subject on its own; but a number of those people stopping at my table readily raised the subject. I now wonder whether the problem is really more prevalent than we are led to believe as we continue to see it on TV or read about it in newspapers. From my unscientific observation from this book signing, I have come to guess that it is more pervasive than acknowledged. It seems that many people around Pembroke/Petawawa clearly have it on their minds, living with it or knowing someone with it.
Right at the start, one woman told me that her husband, who had been in the Special Forces, has PTSD; despite that, her daughter is presently going into boot camp as a new recruit. The person who impressed me the most however was a young woman who came up to my table near the end of the afternoon. Pretty, well-dressed, smiling, she did not come to talk about the book. She calmly talked about her husband and how she had to deal with his PTSD. My part of the conversation was awkward as I was unsure what she expected me to say. But I was sympathetic and tried to reply as best as I could. She was not complaining but just talked for a few minutes. It was only later that I came to think that she did not want any grand statements from me, no sympathy; she just knew I was there and was interested, and she wanted to talk to someone about it. Thinking about it later, I believed I could have been a better listener and asked more questions, but I hope I helped in some small way.
T. Robert Fowler, author, Canadian military history