Gatineau man who defused live suicide bomber honoured in new book

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Gatineau man who defused live suicide bomber honoured in new book

Post by Trooper on Sat 11 Nov 2017, 8:32 am


Published on: November 10, 2017

Leading Seaman Bruno Guevremont in his bulky bomb suit in Afghanistan.

When the call came in to Leading Seaman Bruno Guevremont that there was a suicide bomber in Kandahar, the navy bomb technician assumed he was being sent to pick up bits and pieces.

To Guevremont’s surprise, when his unit arrived, the bomber was still very much alive, pinned by the arms by two Afghan policemen, a belt of explosives strapped to his body, two detonator switches dangling from his hands.

There was no time to put on his heavy and cumbersome bomb suit — nor at that close distance, even a hope that it would protect him from a blast — so Guevremont grabbed a pair of scissors, some wire cutters and roll of duct tape, and walked in “bare ass.”

“I was so focused on what I was doing. I never feared for my life. I was stone cold,” Guevremont recounts in a new book Everyday Heroes, a collection of 21 firsthand accounts from Canadian veterans. Guevremont quickly realized the bomber was a mentally challenged man who had been conscripted by the Taliban for the suicide attack. He was able to remove the vest and render it safe. It was, Guevremont was told, the first time in Canadian Forces history someone had defused a live suicide bomber.

“The thing about the military, Canadians don’t want to talk about their accomplishments,” Guevremont, a Gatineau native, said in a phone call from his new home in Victoria. “It’s why the public doesn’t know a lot about our military. It’s hard to start talking about this stuff. Everyone who reads it thinks it’s a big deal, but within the ranks we don’t even think about it at all.”

Edited by Ottawa city councillor Jody Mitic, himself a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Everyday Heroes is dedicated to the “men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, past, present and future, and the public that supports them.” It features stories from veterans of the Second World War, Korea, Afghanistan and other missions such as the Ebola outbreak in Africa and United Nations missions in Cyprus and Bosnia.

Guevremont is one of several Ottawa-area veterans profiled in the book (another being Noel Shanks of Sharbot Lake, who, full disclosure, was this reporter’s uncle).

Guevremont’s modesty notwithstanding, “I can tell you that in the ranks, we are all amazed at that story,” said Mitic. “Imagine knowing that a Taliban lookout with a cellphone could be watching ready pull the trigger when you got close enough. Bruno did that for someone he didn’t know. He didn’t speak the same language. He didn’t have to do that but Bruno gave that person back their life.”

Guevremont did it all in his 15-year military career. He trained as a paratrooper and was on his way to becoming one of a handful of elite navy clearance divers until he damaged his lung in a decompression accident. He retrained as a bomb disposal technician like the ones made famous in the film The Hurt Locker, and went back to Afghanistan for a second tour as part of a counter-IED (improvised explosive device) unit. Their job was to find and defuse the IEDs that accounted for nearly all of the 159 Canadian combat deaths in Afghanistan.

But coming home from Afghanistan was just the start of another, even more harrowing journey for Guevremont. Soon after returning from his second tour, Guevremont noticed he was a changed man. He lost his temper easily. The smell of diesel triggered flashbacks to Afghanistan. He had blood-chilling nightmares. He even considered suicide.

“I never experienced anxiety, panic attacks or depression, so when those feeling came around, I wasn’t sure how to respond,” he says in the book. In basic training, recruits are told ‘Shut up, suffer in silence,’ he said.

At his wife’s urging, Guevremont went to a military mental health clinic and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Though he says he was treated well by the military health professionals, Guevremont was released from the Forces. He isn’t bitter.

“I did pretty much everything I wanted to do: Jump out of planes, be a diver, go on tours, be a weapons specialist. I did a lot of high-speed stuff,” he says.

It took three visits to a military doctor before Guevremont admitted to himself he was ill.

“We had a doctor and she was pretty switched on. It took three times. The first time, she said those are the symptoms of PTSD and I remember telling her, ‘I don’t know where you went to school Doc, but that isn’t me.’

“Then there was a second time. Then there was a third time and by that time I was just done. I knew I had to take care of myself.”

After receiving treatment, Guevremont slowly began to rebuild his life outside the military. He took a course to help veterans become entrepreneurs. He opened his own CrossFit gym in Victoria and practises “fitness as therapy.” He was recruited to join a team of veterans trekking to the North Pole with the True Patriot Love Foundation, an experience he called “life-changing.”

He served as captain for the team of Canadian veterans at the 2016 Invictus Games in Florida and was an ambassador for this year’s games in Toronto. He’s a spokesman for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign for mental health and is working on his own book about his career in the military and adjusting to civilian life.

Mitic hopes the book will help Canadians better understand their military and the jobs it does.

“We’ve come a long way from having a couple of hundred of people at the war memorial for Remembrance Day to where we are today when they’re adding more big screens for people to see because of the crowds.

“But I still don’t think they really know us.”

Everyday Heroes, edited by Ottawa city councilor and Afghanistan veteran Jody Mitic, tells the story of 21 Canadian military veterans.


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