The 40th Anniversary of the grenade explosion at the CFB Valcartier, now Garrison Valcartier, Cadet Camp was marked on July 30 with a memorial parade. In attendance were Brigadier General Richard Giguere, MPs Nycole Turmel of Aylmer QC, Elaine Michaud of Valcartier, Jack Harris of St John’s NFLD East, and a myriad of senators and other dignitaries. It was acknowledged this would be the last time the ‘boys of D Company’, their families and the families of the fallen would formally gather at the base to commemorate the Tragedy at Valcartier.
Gerry Fostaty is part of an ad hoc committee, set up to not only to organize the parade, but to draw attention to those left behind. It’s been 40 years, but two of the families of the fallen still attended the anniversary event. “Keep in mind these people are in their seventies and eighties now. They’re still grieving the loss of their sons. Travel isn’t easy for them anymore. The boys are dispersed all around the world,” says Fostaty. The mission of the committee has evolved into getting physical and psychological help for those who were injured that day. “We would like to see if we can get support from Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of National Defence. Maybe in some way the deaths of the boys will help the soldiers going overseas now, who are coming home with PTSD. In July the Ombudsman was given permission to actually look into, or actively investigate, the whole thing; primarily the treatment of the boys after the event. We’re really waiting for the Ombudsman’s recommendations. We’re just looking for some help for the boys. ”
That day 40 years ago, six teenaged boys were killed and 54 wounded in a cadet ammunition safety demonstration. “Ironically, they were killed in a training session that was supposed to protect them. Eventually, it was determined a live grenade accidentally became mixed in with dummy ordinance when some grenades fell out of a box in the back of a truck. Reports indicate a total thirteen mistakes took place, adding up to all the injuries and deaths of the boys. It was gross negligence,” says Fostaty.
Memories still cling to Fostaty today, 40 years later. “I was just walking back into the room when the grenade went off. It was chaos. My brother was in there. I couldn’t find him. He was there. I didn’t know he was okay. I couldn’t find him. He was looking for me. We couldn’t find each other.” The Ombudsman’s team has already interviewed Fostaty. “It took so many years. Hopefully the Ombudsman will move this forward. They were very thorough. I just want to get the boys the help they need. Families are still grieving. The ones who were there are suffering. The boys really need help. One of them is homeless. He drinks rainwater to survive. There are others who can’t hold down jobs.” Fostaty and the committee want to initiate a culture of help and healing.
“I did know them very well, I was a platoon sergeant. Two of the boys who were killed were in my platoon. Yes, they are still my boys and I still feel responsible for them. I was their sergeant. I was 18 years-old.”
Gerry Fostaty is the author of, As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier. www.gerryfostaty.com