In January 2017, Canadians were horrified by the story of Lionel Desmond, a Nova Scotian man who killed his wife, daughter, mother, and then himself. Desmond was an Afghanistan war veteran. According to family members and friends he suffered from PTSD. In an interview with CBC, Desmond’s sister Cassandra said his experience in Afghanistan created “a mental monster inside my brother he couldn’t control anymore.” Desmond was receiving mental health treatment from the military up until his release in 2015. According to Cassandra he begged and pleaded for treatment for his PTSD from both the Nova Scotia health system and Veterans Affairs and was failed by both. He had sought treatment at a hospital the day before the murder/suicide and was rejected. “I don’t want nobody to cry in silence,” Cassandra told CBC News. “My brother suffered in silence for 10 years fighting demons that we don’t even know, seeing things, replaying events in his head.”
In February 2017, Canadians learned the story of Tricia Beauchamp, an ex-soldier residing in Ottawa. Beauchamp, a single mother, served six overseas deployments including Afghanistan. She was forced to leave the military after a botched surgery and a bout with cancer. She had to wait five months to receive her severance and pension benefits, all the while having no income. In the meantime she was evicted from her home. Many veterans report having to wait up to 14 months to receive their pensions and benefits from a system that is so backlogged and under-resourced it’s causing our ex-soldiers to be evicted. Our Defense Minister called the situation “tragic.” Our Military Ombudsmen called it “ludicrous” and has been publicly advocating for improvements for years. “I felt like I was pushed through the cracks,” Beauchamp told CBC News. “I have been so stressed it’s unreal. We should not be in this state. It is money that is owed to us. We worked so hard throughout our careers.”
These two events, happening so close together, brought Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan War back into the forefront of the national consciousness. It resurrected many of the horror stories we had heard when our military personnel first started returning home from the war. And it reignited a debate over the services, or lack thereof, for our military veterans. Aside from the nobility and patriotism associated with military service, the fact is government-sanctioned murder, no matter how justified, has a cost: a cost to the people on the front lines. When they come back home it goes without saying that they should have the support of their military and their country, in every capacity, to transition back into civilian life; to be adequately taken care of in honour of their service. This is all too often not the case. But it wasn’t always this way. Many of the programs and services that would have benefited both Desmond and Beauchamp were gutted by the Harper government. The current government acknowledges there are problems but is slow to respond. It will be three years before adequate changes to the system are suspected to take effect. How many more veterans will fall through the cracks in the meantime?
Wet deftly explores these issues with beautifully realized characters and an intense, provocative story. David James Brock’s script tackles a myriad of questions plaguing Canadian soldiers: the government bureaucracy they must navigate after returning home; the lack of employment opportunities due to mental disorders and physical disabilities; the subsequent struggle for financial security; the strain on their personal relationships with family and friends; the challenges of readjusting to civilian life after witnessing the horrors of war; and the struggle to find intimacy with partners who can’t relate to those horrors.