Second Lieutenant Ryan Bartlette, Shilo Stag –
Matt Luloff is no stranger to CFB Shilo. Posted here in February 2006, he was welcomed by the prototypical prairie winter blast. Having previously spent time with the Foot Guards in Ottawa, his military experience was drastically about to change. Luloff deployed with TF 1-08 to Afghanistan, and was medically released not long after returning to Canada. Since then, he has had his own struggles with returning to civilian life. Luloff and his friend Maciej always wanted to give back to the veterans’ community. With the advent of a recording studio in his basement, the Veteran X podcast was born.
Aside from Luloff, other CFB Shilo soldiers, including 2PPCLI’s Ian Tait and 26 Field Regiment’s Jessica Wiebe have been on the show. The Stag caught up with Luloff on the phone to discuss how the podcast came to fruition.
RB: What gave you and co-creator Maciej the idea for this podcast?
ML: “I built a studio in the basement because I was recording music down there, and Maciej has always been interested in starting a podcast with me. It’s been about a year in the making. We sat down, hit record then talked about the sort of thing we might want to talk about in a podcast.
“A few months later my wife brought up ‘whatever happened to that podcast idea.’ We discussed music, current affairs. But there is so much of that out there. My wife said, ‘Well, you guys have been looking for a way to give back to the veterans’ community, right?’ Combined with the idea that we wanted to start a podcast, she kind of gave me that look of ‘come on, figure it out!’
“So, Lauren is our executive producer. She helps keep things on track, makes sure I keep up with my editing and that we’re constantly bringing in new people to talk. It became a three-way partnership between the three of us. We recorded our first four episodes and started releasing. We are taking a bit of a hiatus while I’m running [for municipal office], but we’ll be back in November. That’s kind of how it began.”
RB: You got out in 2009. Something about me as well — I spent four years working at the IPSC here at CFB Shilo. I’m betting you’re fairly familiar with them as well?
ML: “I was personally never posted to an IPSC. The end of my contract was coming up, so they gave me a medical release.”
RB: Do you think it would have been beneficial to spend time there prior to your transition to civilian life?
ML: “Oh probably, yes. When I got back to Ottawa, I had a really good [VAC] case manager. They would follow up with me to make sure I was meeting appointments, so I felt like I got the support I needed once I got back to Ottawa. I felt like they took care of me very well.
“I started going to school immediately, so I had something to keep my mind busy. I also started a rock band called Hearts and Minds. I was with them for 10 years … we actually ended up winning $45,000 in a local radio competition. I had a really healthy outlet for the way that I was feeling. It was a rough transition, don’t get me wrong. Since I was coming home to where my family was, I felt like I had that safety net.”
RB: I listened to your interview and I’d have to agree — there’s no one way that people deal with transition. You had a good transition with VAC, where some hadn’t had that piece, and had their experience somewhere else be it through OSISS or other mental health advocates.
ML: “Exactly. I think everybody’s journey is different. It was terribly frustrating in the beginning, but I did get the service I needed. Dealing with any bureaucracy can be trying at the best of times.”
RB: When I listened to Jessica’s episode, I could hear her pushing herself. It was, I think, incredibly raw for her because she believed that if she was going through this, that there were others going through similar circumstances. If we can put it out there, and one person realizes that they are not alone, then it is worth it.
ML: “That’s the way I look at it. If we can help one person decide that they want to keep living, or that they have something to give the world, then I think we’ve done our job.”
RB: I’ve noticed a few common themes in your podcast, but if you want to expand what do you think are important themes to talk about as veterans together in this community.
ML: “I think we need to talk about how it felt, transitioning to civilian life. What that loss is actually like. You’re living in a culture, and you’re giving that up to go back to something that you left behind in the beginning. Everybody who joins the military in the beginning, you become ingrained in this incredible culture, this new family. It’s almost like you’re forced out of it. “It’s important to talk about how they felt, leaving the military. It’s important to talk about how their experiences affected them, because we need other people to know that it’s normal. To feel the way that you do. That emptiness that you have, after your service, is normal. It’s important to talk about relationships. It’s important to talk about hobbies. It’s important to talk about who they talk to, to show people the many different avenues there are to get where you need to be.”
RB: When I was working with IPSC, I knew one guy his hobby was knitting. Which I kind of get now. Had the tough soldier image, but admittedly loved knitting. With so much in his life that was grey, knitting was very direct. Your accomplishments were measurable. Viewable. Something that was lacking in his life.
ML: “I think that’s awesome. There’s also something very mindful about knitting, too. You have to pay attention. Your body and your mind have to work together. I find with OSI and with PTSD, there becomes a bit of a disconnect between your mind and your body. If you can find an activity you can do that connects the two, whether it’s meditation, learning to play an instrument or knitting. That’s an incredibly helpful thing.”
RB: You’ve been on this journey for 10 years. If someone came to you now, what advice would you give guys who are starting to have these feelings?
ML: “First things first. Put your hand up. There’s no shame in feeling the way that you do. Put your hand up and say you need help. Go to someone you trust, and maybe someone that is going through the same thing. It takes a soldier to train a civilian to go to war, but it doesn’t take a soldier to train another soldier to become a civilian. “You can get the help of a civilian. You’re learning now, how to be a civilian. My psychologist, who finally got me doing exposure therapy, she never served in the Forces, but she got me. I feel like she gave me my old life back. “It doesn’t have to be a soldier to reach out to — it can be somebody else. Whether it’s a friend or a professional that’s the sort of relationship that will help you get through these things.”
RB: It can be tough. Sometimes people reach out, and they get let down. You have to find that somewhere deep down that it will be worth it in the end.
ML: “It’s sadly common, but I agree.”
This post is also available in: Français (French)