Oak Bay’s Joseph E. L. (Larry) Gollner describes his military career with one word – “lucky.”
During the course of his career, Larry traveled to more than 60 countries, including China, Egypt, Lebanon, Kenya, Austria, Norway and China. He had three children – each born in a different country – with his wife of 56 years Christine Gollner.
“I loved the adventure,” says Christine, adding they moved 24 times while Larry served on different missions.
The 80-year-old veteran joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in 1956 and served mainly in the PPCLI’s second battalion, which defends Canadian interests at home and abroad.
He said one of their most challenging missions took place in northern Norway, where the Canadian Forces encountered an “extremely difficult terrain” while they assisted the Norwegian army in preventing a possible Russian intrusion.
“I had a great time,” he said emphatically.
Although Gollner retired from the military in 1993, he has been actively involved with veterans’ issues.
Between 2006 to 2010, he went to Afghanistan twice to visit battle groups of the Regiment of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and was very active in supporting families of the fallen and the wounded.
As the patron of the Canadian Peacekeepers Veterans Association, Gollner continues to work toward improved quality of life for wounded and ill veterans. He has also been a member of the Veteran’s Ombudsman’s Advisory Council, a position that allows him to provide insight in an important forum for veterans.
Earlier this year he earned a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, which recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements from across the country and abroad.
According to Gollner, the growing awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is having a positive impact on Canadian veterans.
“I think the whole question of PTSD is now dealt with more responsibly than it was,” he said. “It wasn’t dealt with well in the ‘80s and ‘90s – the system wasn’t reacting, and people didn’t know what was wrong with [veterans struggling with PTSD].”
Although Canadians have started to hear a lot more about PTSD in recent years, the condition is known to exist at least since the times of ancient Greece, and has been called by many different names.
But while there’s more awareness nowadays, Gollner says there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to supporting veterans struggling with PTSD.
“It never will be perfect, but at least a whole bunch of people are working hard now to try to make it so.”
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