Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

Numerous moves, long and repeated absences as well as missions which sometimes leave their mark: sharing your life with a soldier is not always easy. Spouses and children often waver between incomprehension and pride. Meeting with a family whose father spent 32 years of his life in the Canadian Armed Forces.

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« Situation, mission, execution»: growing at pace  of the army

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Joey and Héloïse Chartrand in Warsaw, Poland, in 1993.

  • Karine Mateu (View profile)Karine Mateu

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In the house of Micheline Laurencelle and Stéphane Chartrand, in Shawinigan, in Mauricie, the atmosphere is pleasant. On the dining room table, there are still a few plates, the remains of a family dinner. In the kitchen, coffee is brewing, and the children, now adults, chat while one of the two big dogs runs around them.

A typical family scene, similar to those we might see during the holidays but which contrasts with what this family experienced when the father was in the military. Today, Captain Chartrand is retired, his wife is almost there and his three children are adults, but the past has left its mark.

Before starting the meeting, the veteran shows us around his office located on the second floor. There, his 32-year career is on display. On the walls, there are photos, frames and diplomas, a true museum of his military life.

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Veteran Stéphane Chartrand spent 32 years in the Canadian Armed Forces.

It was destiny that led me to join the Forces, but it was also a bit because of my father, because there was a lot of discipline in our home. He died when I was 11. My father was not in the Forces. On the other hand, my uncle was, and he was in a way my second father, he explains, pointing to a black and white photo.

Tall and strong, the former soldier with a warm smile recounts each stage of his career with precision and pride.

I'll go in chronological order. I was a member of the Royal 22e Regiment from 1982 to 1986. I then requested a change of profession to become an intelligence specialist. From 1993 to 1996, I was transferred to the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. Then, in 1999-2000, it was East Timor, he comments, showing a map pinned to the wall.

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Soldier Stéphane Chartrand during the Canadian peace mission in East Timor.

It was in austere conditions. The first two months were temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees. When I returned, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. We had to secure the villages. People had fled to the mountains and there were others who could not, unfortunately, because the villages had been burned. We could smell the odors of fires and corpses, which had been thrown at the bottom of the wells, he said, remaining silent after saying these words.

The marks of recognition, promotions and specializations were very numerous and the rise of Mr. Chartrand in the upper echelons of the army #x27;continued until his retirement in 2014. Promoted to the ranks of chief warrant officer and captain, this officer had an impressive career.

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Stéphane Chartrand, chief adjutant, 2003 .

During these years, the couple and their three children moved from one military base to another around fifteen times, in addition to living in Poland for four years.

It was as an adult that I really realized the impact of not necessarily having roots. When people ask me where I come from, I answer that I was born in Quebec. I am Quebecois and Canadian, but I have roots all over the country. The positive is that it allows adaptability, flexibility, but determining who you really are takes a little more time, says Héloïse, the eldest of the family, who lives in alternation in Kuujjuaq and Montreal.

Living with parents who are in the army is a microcosm, adds Joey, the second of the siblings, who is a political advisor to the ministerial office in Quebec. It’s later that you see the impact on your perception of life’s issues. It strengthens your skin, because your interpersonal relationships still need to be developed.

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From left to right: Héloïse Chartrand, Micheline Laurencelle, Stéphane Chartrand, Noémie Chartrand and Joey Chartrand.

Noémie, the youngest, who lives on the military base in Borden, Ontario, joined the conversation by videoconference. She followed in her father's footsteps and is a mobile support equipment driver in the Canadian Armed Forces. I saw my father leave at the airport and I didn't understand why he was leaving, but when I was young, we stayed in Kingston for a while, so I saw him a lot. For me, my father's job was something big, she said with a lot of admiration in her voice.

There is pride and incomprehension when you are a child. On the one hand, you don't understand his job, because he doesn't talk about it at home, and you can't question him because of the nature of his job [intelligence]. At the same time, you are proud, because you see that what he does is important.

A quote from Joey Chartrand, son of a soldier

He established his code of ethics in his family, discipline, respect, righteousness, ethics, but there were other more harmful behaviors. It's difficult, his job, there was anger that came out, not physical, but in the tone of his voice. The shouting was daily: there was a period when it was hard, says the son in complete transparency.

Karine Mateu's report on this subject was presented on the showAll terrain, broadcast on ICIPremieres Sunday at 10a.m.

The challenges of a military family. SHOW HERE PREMIERE. All terrain.

The Challenges of a Military Family


Listen to the audio (The challenges of a military family. 14 minutes 7 seconds)

Welcome to the "Daughters of Caleb" 2.0, immediately launches Micheline Laurencelle, the partner of Stéphane Chartrand, who was present at all stages of her military husband's life.

We met in 1982 and married in 1986. I could already see what I was getting myself into: he left twice in a year, but I wanted to have children. So I stayed at home by choice. I told myself that as long as I didn't see their father, I was going to give them my faults, she emphasizes, smiling.

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Micheline Laurencelle and her children Joey and Héloïse on the streets of Warsaw, Poland, in 1993.

There were long periods where she was alone with the children and the difficulties that entailed.

I had two children 18 months apart and we had one salary. I lived on the threshold of the working families of the 1950s. To withdraw money from the bank even with a joint account, you needed the husband's authorization, she laments. You had to be really resourceful. I did some volunteer work. If there were no services, they had to be found or created. We did that with women's arms!

When there was the ice [ in the winter of 1998], he arrived to work, he said to me: "I'm leaving in two hours" and he returned two months later.

A quote from Micheline Laurencelle, military spouse

On the table is a stack of family photo albums, several of which were taken on the streets of Warsaw, Poland, when the children were young. Mostly happy memories but also dark ones, because the missions leave their mark, some more than others.

When he returned from his mission, my father was no longer the same. But above all there was a schism between the first 10 years of our life and the 10 others that followed his return from East Timor, around the 2000s. He had a joy of living that had disappeared and only returned when he retired.

A quote from Joey Chartrand, son of a soldier

The father I have at the moment, that's not is not the one I had in high school, and that's for the best, adds Noémie.

The reason for this state is that in the Forces, it's “situation, mission, execution”. It's like this not only at work but also at home. Even on vacation, we always think about the events that will follow. We are always hypervigilant, explains the main person concerned. By doing this, you create distance from your family. You wanted to protect us, but we still felt it, adds Héloïse in turn.

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Héloïse and Joey Chartrand in Warsaw in 1993.

It is obvious that missions like the one in East Timor were deeply impactful for Stéphane Chartrand. Are these missions relevant, given the impact they have on the deployed soldiers? How do we then make peace with these missions?

There is an ambivalence. I'm proud of my father and I think there's relevance to the military, and at the same time you wonder: when do we get involved? What does defending democracy mean? Why are we sending our guys to the other side of the world? But you don't have the choice to believe it so as not to have the impression of losing your father for nothing, Héloïse intervenes. At the same time, when you're in the military, I think you also have to be honest about the impacts that your actions have not only on you but also on the communities where you are.

For Micheline, the reason for these missions is people. It's sacrificing one's life so that other humans can survive or have an improvement in their lives, but there is nothing perfect, she philosophizes.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In East Timor, I know that in each village, it took a while, but the situation has improved enormously. Somehow, Canada and the company group did their part. That's from an operational point of view, replies the veteran.

From a personal point of view, several areas remain secret , even for his children, but the work seems to have begun. Before leaving the Forces, I didn't even know the definition of the word “emotion”. I learned it once I retired, he confides.

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Noémie Chartrand, the youngest in the family, during her qualification for her recruit course in 2018.

This conversion does not discourage the youngest, Noémie, who is also in the Canadian Armed Forces. Times have changed: conditions have improved and she is proud not only of her work but especially of her father.

It's been six years since I I'm in the Forces and I understand more and more what my father went through. It opens my eyes to his career. I have a lot of respect for my father and I know there were difficult times, but he is a hero to me.

Dad, she said, addressing him directly, you have accomplished a lot in your career and that makes me want to move up and continue on my path, really.


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