Local veterans share their stories of service

November 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Last week the Citizen had the opportunity to sit down with three veterans who are members of the Orangeville Legion Br. 233. Barry Kimber, Chuck Simpson, and Bryan Goustos each shared their stories of service, and reflected on the struggles Canadian Armed Forces face relating to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Chuck Simpson

Simpson served for a little over 37 years and says his service with the military helped him greatly in getting on the right path in life.

“I was living in Toronto, not doing well in school. Not doing well as a 17 or 18-year-old young man in Regent Park,” he said. “It was pretty rough at that time. It was not a nice area.”

At 18 he enlisted out of Toronto and did his training in Nova Scotia in the field of communications, before later receiving training in Kingston, Ont.

His training was stopped due to the FLQ crisis, which started in 1970 when the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross. At which time, Simpson was brought in to provide assistance.

“They said I was providing security, but when you’re 18-years-old and not really clued in, I just stayed out of the tanks way and listened to what the sergeant said,” Simpson recalled.

After the crisis was resolved, he continued his training in Kingston, before being posted to Borden (Ont.), Esquimalt (B.C), Petawawa (Ont.), and Goose Bay (N.L).

Simpson met his wife in Borden, who’s also a veteran, and served for 22 years.

He’s done a total of three tours with the Canadian Armed Forces, in Cyprus and the Golan Heights of Syria.

At 21 years old he first went overseas, arriving in Cyprus, and when reflecting on his time there, he said he had a “blast”.  

“When you’re a young man going around, and I was a dispatch rider, I was in a jeep and I delivered stuff. I was going through checkpoints, minefields,” Simpson said. “You’re conscious of the danger, but it was just such an adventure.”

He noted that his tour in Cyprus was a peacekeeping mission, trying to prevent the Greeks and Turks from killing each other, who are both allies of Canada.

“Then I was in the Golan Heights, which is still a warzone because Israel and Syria and all them folks haven’t signed a peacekeeping, they’re still shooting at each other,” noted Simpson.

The Golan Heights presented many dangers to the more than 12,000 Canadians who have served there since the United Nations peace mission began in 1974.

“There’s so much stuff out there that can kill you – minefields, you have to traverse,” said Simpson. “We used to have wild pigs run through and the odd time they would hit one of them and they would go off – it would set off a series.”

Overall, Simpson told the Citizen that he’s grateful he had the opportunity to serve.  

“That changed my life. By joining the military, I found out I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was, and I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was,” said Simpson. “The 37 years [of service] went by really fast – I can tell you that. And never hurt anybody, I never destroyed anything on purpose. And so, most of my career is what they call Cold War/peace time, but we were in areas where it got hairy, but nothing happened.” 

However, he did note Bryan Goustos, who’s a fellow local veteran, served in Bosnia where things did get “hairy.”

Bryan Goustos

Goustos dad signed off on the paperwork required to allow him to join a militia in the field engineer regiment of the Fort York Armory, just before turning 17, in 1984. He trained for three years there before transferring over to the regular force to do basic training.

In January of 1988, Goustos landed in Petawawa as a combat engineer. From there, he did three tours, with the first one being Cyprus in 1989. He then spent 1992 and 1993 in Iraq/Kuwait establishing the international border there.

Goustos noted that the Iraq/Kuwait Tour was his first Christmas spent overseas.

While establishing the border, a large part of his job was explosive ordnance disposal, which entails finding unexploded mines and shells (dud ammunition) in the ground and removing them.

In the area of the Iraq and Kuwait border, cluster bombs were most commonly used during battles, but they need to hit a hard surface to explode. When the bombs were dropped in sand, which occurred often, they wouldn’t detonate.

“So as we’re going around setting this international border, we’re actually clearing the way so that we can bring trucks in and the civilian surveyors in there,” said Goustos.

The unexploded ordnances would be shot from a distance, with the Canadian 223 round, which has a steel core instead of a lead one. The steel core allows the bullets to penetrate the untriggered bombs.

Following the deployment to Iraq/Kuwait, Goustos served in Bosnia during 1994 and 1995, as well as Haiti in 1997.

The battle of Medak, which was the main battle in Bosnia, was the biggest firefight Canada was involved in since the Korean War, when excluding the battles in Afghanistan.

“These guys got into a real hardcore heavy duty shooting match,” noted Simpson, of the battle.

Goustos was later posted to Cold Lake in Alberta in 1996 where he did more explosive ordnance disposal.

At the beginning of the millennium, Goustos did an occupational transfer to firefighter. He worked in the role for a few years before being posted to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Ottawa in 2004 and 2005. He was also posted to HMCS Regina in 2006 and worked in Winnipeg the following year. After that he took a job with the Brampton Fire Department and has been there ever since.

Barry Kimber

Kimber served for three years on a radar base before he had to end his service due to medical problems.

He said one thing many people don’t realize that’s really important is the amount of peacekeeping that goes on with the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as NORAD.

“We have Rangers right across the Yukon right now that are watching all our borders up north. And these guys are all part of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Kimber. “You’ve got Air Force people on the East Coast that are watching our borders on each side to make sure that they’re safe because I’ll be honest with you, if you look at the news right now, the Cold War’s coming back.”

“The penetration of other countries crossing over past international lines, they’re testing the UK all the time,” he added.

Kimber said there’s a threat of other nations trying to claim ownership of Canada’s northern land as well, such as the Yukon because of all the natural resources located there.

“Our military, they’re the ones that are ensuring that our borders are protected, and that they’re not infringed on,” he noted.

With this in mind, Kimber stressed the importance of recognizing the Canadian Armed Forces members who serve at home, protecting their country domestically, in addition to those that serve overseas.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An important issue all three local veterans touched one is the PTSD associated with the battles that are fought by Canadian Armed Forces.

Simpson said one of his sergeants suffered from severe PTSD following the clearing of bodies from the ethnic cleansing that took place in Bosnia.

“That would destroy you,” said Kimber, of the soldiers who had to clear out the area.

Simpson noted that the Korean War and World War Two veterans were heavily impacted by PTSD following the wars due to the types of conditions they fought in and lack of understanding of the condition at the time.

“They would go through an area, live in an area, and be face to face, doing hand to hand combat. That’s not long distance, they’re grappling with fellow human beings, and what they’re trying to do is kill each other,” he said. “These are the guys that that lived through that. Man’s inhumanity to man is what these guys really seen.”

Nowadays, in modern combat, soldiers generally keep their distance, Simpson told the Citizen.

Kimber said his great grandfather fought in the rougher conditions during the First World War and suffered greatly because of it.

“He went to Passchendaele, went to Vimy Ridge, and survived it all,” he said. “He went over there with 8,000 men, and only came home with 700 from his battalion.”

“The family talks about when he came home, he was put in a hospital in Toronto for almost a year, he suffered with Shell Shock, and he was completely deaf,” Kimber added.

He said the PTSD, then known as “shell shock” and hearing loss, took a large toll on the family, as his great grandfather was an unhappy man when he returned from overseas.

At that time, PTSD wasn’t a recognized mental disorder and not properly treated as it is now.

Through the Poppy Fund, which is made up of money raised through the Royal Canadian Legion’s canvasing of poppies for Remembrance Day, Orangeville Br. 233 has been able to help a local veteran with PTSD.

This has been accomplished through a service dog program, where Chandler, who’s a Newfie, provides him with therapeutic support.

Simpson said the veteran is a changed person now, since receiving the dog. Whereas he wouldn’t talk much before, the veteran is now very social and doing much better.

With today being Remembrance Day, it is the final day of the Poppy Campaign and anyone who would like to make a donation to the local Poppy Fund, which directly supports veterans, can do so by e-transferring their donation to

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