A young Williams Lake Canadian Army veteran who was discharged for medical reasons after serving a decade has transformed his disappointment into a commitment to help other veterans.
“I was medically discharged in 2019 because of an injury while I was part of public affairs,” said Matthew Freeman, 31. “It was during our off season we were doing horse riding practice and the horse decided to be a bit iffy that day.”
Inside the indoor arena, the horse bucked Freeman off and he was injured.
He had surgery, followed by physiotherapy, but he was never the same again because there was so much damage caused by the fall.
“Eventually the decision came down from Ottawa that they would give me a medical discharge and that was probably one of the hardest pills for me to swallow because by that point I had almost 10 years of service in. It felt like my world had crumbled apart.”
After being discharged he was angry, anxious, depressed and blamed himself. He had planned serving for at least 29 years in the military minimum.
“A buddy of mine suggested I should get a dog and I adopted a rescue dog from the humane shelter in Edmonton and she really helped me a lot. She always knew when I wasn’t feeling myself and she would be right there to snuggle up.”
Ada continues to be a great companion, he said.
He decided to move back to Williams Lake and eventually he met Dave Brideau, vice-president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 in Williams Lake, who suggested he would be a great fit for the role of veteran liaison officer (VLO).
“It’s a new spot that was created for the legion and I think there are only a total of three in Canada,” Freeman said. “Most legions just go with a service officer.”
As the VLO, his main responsibility is to assist the service officer and help veterans deal with Veteran Affairs.
He services more than Williams Lake and recently helped someone from Ontario.
“I got him hooked up with an old military buddy of mine from Edmonton that deals with operational stress injuries,” Freeman said. “He is a retired sergeant and he knows a lot more about PTSD than I do and that man from Ontario was dealing with it.
PTSD is nasty and can be difficult for family members, he added.
Born in Edmonton, Freeman moved to Williams Lake with his mom Debbie Freeman when he was 16 years of age.
He attended Columneetza Secondary School, worked for a year after graduation at DG’s Car Wash before joining the Canadian Armed Forces.
Once he completed training he was posted to CFB Edmonton with Lord Stratchona’s Horse Royal Canadians, a regular armoured regiment of the Canadian Army.
“They are the main tank regiment for Canada,” he explained.
He never served overseas, but in May 2011 his regiment was deployed to the Manitoba flood emergency for about a month, and in 2013 he was dispatched to Southern Alberta floods near Medicine Hat where they built a 20-foot wall.
Freeman said veterans can contact him through the local legion branch or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.