Every summer, 17-year-old Lorraine Shen would travel from Canada to Taiwan to visit her grandfather, Hua Lee. The two were close and would talk, but for Lee, there were things he never spoke of.
When Lee passed away in two years ago, he was a longtime sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder, scarred by a conflict that claimed the life of his brother.
Lee was from Anhui, a province in China. He had fought with the Kuomintang against the Communists during China's civil war and against Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Lee's mother forbade her sons from joining the army, but Lee ignored her bidding and took his little brother along, a defiance he deeply regretted.
"He witnessed his brother die in a Japanese raid in China, and I think that haunted him for a long time," Lorraine says. "He (felt) too guilty to face his mom because he kind of rebelled against her wishes."
According to family lore, Lee was told his own mother had cried herself blind from grief. Once the Kuomintang was defeated, Lee settled in Taiwan and never returned to China. He didn't explain why, but his family suspected he was afraid to face his parents. Lee worked as a civil servant for 30 years, helping fellow veterans land infrastructure jobs in Taiwan. The government provided basic necessities for vets but any mental trauma they suffered was disregarded.
Lorraine remembers her grandfather as a quiet man, with a rosy nose, who drank regularly.
"He did not want to relive the experience at all. He would never mention any of his childhood. He would never mention the times he was in war. He didn't want to think about it anymore," she says. "But he relied on alcohol a lot."
Lorraine says he drank vodka or cooking alcohol to numb the pain, but it never affected his job as a government worker. The rest of the family left Lee to his own devices, and he didn't cause any trouble, but he seemed unhappy, Lorraine says.
In January 2010, when Lee was 91, he passed away in his home in Taipei. Lorraine was shocked to witness half a bullet removed from her grandfather's ashes, when his cremated remains were presented to family in Taiwan.
"I didn't know what to think, I was so sad at the time," Lorraine says. "My mom told me the bullets never got taken out. I was a little shocked to see it there."
Last fall, Lorraine's teacher at Moscrop Secondary suggested she start an anti-war group at school, but Lorraine thought raising awareness for stopping war wasn't enough.
"It didn't touch on the crucial point about why we need to stop the war," she says. "There are so many victims resulting from violence, especially the soldiers who are being neglected with their invisible injuries, like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It's important for people to understand what they are going through."
Last October, Lorraine and her friend Jessica He started Hope After War at Moscrop, and there are now about 30 club members.
With Remembrance Day approaching, the students are also planning a screening of Broken Heroes, a documentary on Canadian vets returning from Afghanistan. They've held two fundraising events and collected $309 for Wounded Warriors, a non-profit group that helps Canadian soldiers wounded or injured in service. The club also passed out pamphlets at school to other students to help raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.
"By showing more and more people the consequences these soldiers are experiencing, that is a way to stop violence," Lorraine says. "I am hoping that will serve as an incentive to stop. I know it won't happen in the near future."
Lorraine's not sure what her grandfather would think if he were still alive, but she suspects he would be pleased.
"I think he would be happy to see I'm doing something to raise awareness about what he had suffered and how many others have suffered with him, yet they were neglected by the government, or the public, because they didn't regard it as an actual disorder," she says.
This Remembrance Day, Lorraine wants the public to understand the effects of war on people.
"I just want more people to understand what the soldiers are going through instead of neglecting the invisible injuries so that the soldiers will get the help they need, and hopefully they can get the attention they deserve."
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