The phrase ‘must-read’ is warranted for Roméo Dallaire’s memoir Waiting for First Light: My Battle with PTSD. Especially poignant if you are Canadian and are concerned with how our country treats our veterans, or you have an interest in international affairs, human rights, and mental health.
Dallaire is unflinching in his honesty with his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. He writes about his suicide attempts, his downward spiral into alcoholism, and his frustration with the international community for its ineffectiveness and disregard for the Rwandan genocide.
On his battle with PTSD and wish to die, Dallaire writes:
“Rwanda will never end and I will never be free….Each night I take my pills, and try to sleep with the hope that I will not awaken again amidst the roaming souls who still wander the hills of Rwanda, asking me to join them.”
“In the months to come, whenever I drove past that site on the Hill, I would ask myself, why had I made such a half-assed move? A little more to the right, a little more speed, and I could have finally gone down.”
Dallaire also does not hold back in his criticisms of the international community as well as his own government. He writes about the policy reversals that happened under the Harper government and the general inadequacy when it comes to providing veterans with the necessary means to address PTSD and mental health. On this topic he provides a shocking statistic that should affect all Canadians:
“We have lost more veterans to suicide during and since our mission in Afghanistan than we did in our thirteen years of combat there.”
Dallaire is extremely passionate about Rwanda, bringing more attention and resources to fight PTSD and help suffering veterans, and he has dedicated himself to eradicating the use of child soldiers.
There are passages in the book that sent shivers through my body, had me feeling sick, and others where I felt so much gratitude, respect and gut-wrenching sympathy for this man who gave himself totally and completely to serve not just his country throughout his military career, but also to Rwandans in a time where humanity completely failed, and in return the international community completely failed him.
Dallaire is a hero and he deserves the respect of the whole world.