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Nov18WedAfter a lifetime of battling post-traumatic stress, a former military medic finds peace as a soldier in The Salvation Army. November 18, 2015 by Brianne Zelinsky
Fifty kilometres from the front lines of the Persian Gulf War, 20-year-old Corey Pardy lay awake in his bunker, unable to sleep through the deafening sound of jet engines and shell blasts in Kuwait. A military medic, he couldn't shake the disturbing images of those he treated, both soldiers and prisoners of war. As Pardy trembled in his bunk, he prayed, God, if you're out there, please take me home.
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“When you see people getting killed you look at things differently and you value life, but when you're a Christian, you also value eternal life,” reflects Pardy. “At any given time, my life could have ended over there. I don't know what would have happened if it did because I wasn't a professing Christian.”
No Place Like Home
Pardy, a Salvationist from Conception Bay South, N.L., was only 18 when he enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“I always wanted to be part of a uniform organization growing up,” says Pardy. “My brother was in the military and served five years before I enlisted. Seeing him in this service encouraged me to join.”
Pardy, whose father was a conservation officer with the provincial government, grew up in a uniform environment, surrounded by RCMP officers and soldiers—both in the military and in The Salvation Army. Upon graduating from high school, Pardy left the comfort of his home in Grand Bank, N.L., to start boot camp training.
“I was used to my mom's home-cooked meals and getting up in the morning without having to make my bed,” he says, “but in the military you're ordered to eat fast and never complain, so I would swallow my food whole sometimes. It was a fast-paced environment.”
Without any previous medical training, Pardy was assigned to train as a medic during a hospital placement in Borden, Ont., just one year before serving in the Persian Gulf War.
“I was young to be seeing people dying of cancer and other ailments. I don't think I was prepared for that,” reflects Pardy. “You grow up a lot quicker when you see things like that.”
Mercy for the Enemy
Pardy was deployed to Kuwait in January 1991, where he served as a medic with 1 Canadian Field Hospital for four months. With a high-school diploma and one year of training under his belt, Pardy had no idea what he was in for.
“It was like a scene out of M*A*S*H,” says Pardy, referencing the 1970s war-time sitcom. “I can remember calling home on a payphone at the base. There was a tank driving behind me and helicopters flying over my head while I was trying to talk to my mom. She said, 'There's so much noise there,' and I said, 'Well, I am at war, Mom.' ”
It wasn't long before Pardy realized that the sound of active artillery would ring permanently in his head. “You brush it off and let those noises roll off your back, but down inside, they stay with you,” he says.
Pardy's base was a mere two kilometres from the prisoner-of-war camp where the British and American troops held Iraqi soldiers, aged 14 to 70, hostage.
“The prisoners were dressed in rags and you could see their feet through the holes in their boots,” remembers Pardy. “They were so feeble and harmless, but you had to be firm with them because we were commanded to show no respect to them. Looking back, I would have shown compassion by clothing them at the very least.”
Canada, being a part of the Geneva Convention, was under orders to medically treat wounded enemy soldiers.
“I wondered why I was treating the enemy when our soldiers were dying, too,” admits Pardy. “If I were there now, I would treat them totally different and show them the love of God as a Christian, as opposed to being a soldier.”
Life After War
When Pardy returned home from the war, he sought counselling and was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Tormented by his memories, Pardy distanced himself from his family and friends and took refuge in his work. He swapped his military uniform for a placement as a fishery guardian, patrolling inland reserves for poaching violators. From this, he began working with forestry and wildlife as a forest-fire dispatcher and eventually landed a job as a police dispatcher, receiving 911 calls.
“The calls ranged from store theft to street fights, break-ins, assaults and armed robberies,” he explains. “I felt helpless because I couldn't respond or act on anything other than what I did on the phone. I would hang up the phone, go on to the next call and oftentimes wouldn't know the end result.”
"When other veterans turned to booze, gambling, drugs and abuse to deal with their trauma, I turned to the church—I turned to God"
When working as a police dispatcher caused his traumatic past to resurface, Pardy knew it was time to retire.
“The doctor told me to retire because the jobs I worked were too stressful,” says Pardy. “I didn't think anything was bothering me, but subconsciously it was. I was more agitated and more of a bitter person, sometimes withdrawn from family and friends.”
When the haunting memories became too much to bear, Pardy decided to give his life to God. In 2002, he accepted Christ and began living as a Christian.
“It was a conviction,” he says. “I needed to change my ways because I was raising two boys and I wanted to be a role model for them.
“When other veterans turned to booze, gambling, drugs and abuse to deal with their trauma, I turned to the church—I turned to God,” he adds. “I still have PTSD—it's something that doesn't go away—but with prayer and the help of God, I can get through things a lot easier.”
A New Soldiership
Ten years after committing his life to Christ, Pardy committed his service to his home corps at Conception Bay South, enrolling as a senior soldier of The Salvation Army alongside his wife, Ellen.
“Corey does a lot behind the scenes,” says Major Lorne Pritchett, corps officer at Conception Bay South. “It's not uncommon to see him at prayer meetings, chatting with young people or visiting lonely people. He also provides moral support and encouragement for RCMP officers. It all flows from his own covenant with Christ.
“Corey has faced his battles in a very significant and transparent way,” adds Major Pritchett. “To see how his life has been transformed is very helpful to those around him who may be struggling with their own challenges.”
Though he retired from his job as a dispatcher, Pardy volunteers as an auxiliary constable with the RCMP, patrolling neighbourhoods and teaching a drug abuse resistance education (DARE) program in schools.
“I'm not ashamed of being a Christian and telling someone that I'm a soldier of The Salvation Army. Because of that, I am able to be a witness to youth in the schools,” he says. “This is my calling.”
Pardy's passion for youth outreach has compelled him to serve as a youth leader at the corps and in the DARE program.
“When students ask me questions about my experience, I can be honest when I say that I don't drink or smoke because of my beliefs and I can be proud of that,” he says. “The DARE program is very similar to the teachings of The Salvation Army because the Army also prevents and helps those with addictions.”
Pardy's service in the military, RCMP and The Salvation Army has made him a witness for God in all areas of his life.
“As an auxiliary constable with the RCMP, I'm helping people in trouble and teaching them right from wrong,” he says. “The Salvation Army does the same thing. We help people by showing them God's love.
“All of my uniforms are related and they impact people in similar ways, but to me that's all God's work.”