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Collingwood veteran fought for freedom overseas, mental health back home

People of Collingwood: Graham Trude, musician and veteran
2021-05-26 POCTrude JO-001
Graham Trude released his solo single PTSD on May 25, 2021.

To pull himself out of a black hole of mental health challenges, a Collingwood veteran turned to music as therapy.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Graham Trude, 34, musician and veteran.

Q: Have you always lived in the Collingwood area?

A: I was born and raised there. I’ve been around it my whole life.

I grew up in Nottawa and we moved back into Collingwood.

I attended Nottawa Elementary School, Admiral Collingwood, Pretty River Academy and Jean Vanier Catholic High School (now Our Lady of the Bay).

Q: Where did you go after that?

A: I ended up going to Fleming College in Peterborough for Police Foundations. After I was finished in 2006, I joined the military.

Q: What led to that decision?

A: I remember seeing what happened on 9/11. I was at school and we were watching it as the towers fell. Ever since then, there was a lead up to the soldiers going over (to Afghanistan) to fight terrorism.

It was more something that was a calling for me. I loved being a soldier very much.

Q: Can you tell me about the time you spent in Afghanistan?

A: In Sept. 2009, I was deployed to Tangi, Afghanistan. It’s in the Kandahar province. It’s a high insurgent area for a lot of Taliban fighters.

I was on the front line as a tanker. I was with an army corp regiment called the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). We were involved in things called TICs, or Troops in Contact. Basically, it’s a firefight. We experienced those and IEDs, and rocket attacks.

There are a lot of things we experienced so it’s hard to narrow it down.

I did one tour from Sept. 2009 until April 2010.

Q: You dealt with mental health challenges after returning. Can you tell me about that?

A: (When I came back), I ended up moving in with my brother in Bracebridge. I was fresh out of the military. I tried to apply to, like, a million different jobs and I couldn’t get one.

I was told my credentials don’t meet what they were looking for. They were right. What is a tanker going to do in a Mark’s Work Wearhouse? (laughs)

It kind of made sense so I couldn’t really blame them for it, but there wasn’t any real switch over. I ended up playing music.

I started having really bad night sweats, night terrors and panic attacks, although I didn’t know they were panic attacks. I thought they were heart attacks. I started having really vivid flashbacks of scenarios that happened in Afghanistan. To be honest with you, when I sit and think about it, I can’t fully remember.

I noticed that the only thing that was helping me was alcohol to rid myself of all these memories. I developed an alcohol addiction.

It was basically ripping my life apart. I was losing my friends. I was losing my family. I was losing my whole support system. At the same time, they didn’t know that I was suffering deeply and I had no idea what was wrong with me.

It just got worse and worse until about 2014. I was faking it in public. I made it seem like I was fine but really, I was suffering. I felt like I couldn’t really tell anyone about it.

I ended up writing music and I would express my feelings in my songs. All of a sudden, I would feel better after and I didn’t have as much anxiety and tension.

I ended up joining the Anishinabek Police Service in 2014, which is a First Nations fly-in police service in northern Ontario. The policing conditions up there are, you police alone for two weeks on, then two weeks off. There’s no communications, radios, anything like that. The suicide rate up there is just enormous. As much as I loved policing in that community, it took a huge toll on me as well. I started having the same images and dreams, and it started happening again.

I saw a doctor for a diagnosis and he said I had complex post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD) I had been policing in Orangeville when I found out. This was when Orangeville was transitioning over to the Ontario Provincial Police.

I left and moved forward with my music career. It was affecting my life and my mental health too much.

Q: You’ve performed as part of a duo called The Singing Soldiers. When did you start The Singing Soldiers?

A: Chris Earl contacted me after I had played a few shows around Canada with Wounded Warriors. I had been called “The Singing Soldier” when I would go on stage.

Earl found out and contacted me. We had a coffee and discussed it.

My solo career was more commercial. We wanted to do something that really impacted the mental health community of veterans and first responders. That’s the reason we created The Singing Soldiers.

I did that for two years. We did a lot of great things. I (left because) I really wanted to focus on my solo career.

I love commercial music.

Q: Can you describe your musical style?

A: I personally consider myself fusion. I’ve got songs that are country, I’ve got songs that are (like The) Eagles. I’ve got songs that are heavy rock. I’m kind of all over the place. Because of the way I sing, the majority of my fan base call me country.

Q: This week, you released your first single since leaving The Singing Soldiers, called PTSD. Can you tell me about the song and album?

A: We’re in the midst of doing an album right now. We’ll be putting together a bunch of live shows. There’s a ton of stuff that’s happening behind the scenes.

The single was written for anybody who was feeling the same as me. I wrote it on my back deck. Everything that is in that song is something that has happened to me in my life.

You’re not alone. I can’t count how many times people told me that, but I didn’t realize it or understand it until I met people with the same basis of trauma as me. It was like a window opening up. There are a lot of individuals struggling but it’s so hard for people to see it when they’re in it.

There’s a lot of people out there who have the same feelings as you.

PTSD Awareness Month is in June. The song is definitely needed.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: My wife and I moved up to Tiny. So we’re here right now. It’s a good little spot, and I love it. It reminds me of old-school Nottawa. We’re always in Collingwood, as my wife works there and her office is there.

I love Collingwood. I love Nottawa. I love the surrounding area. I’m really looking forward to getting back to playing some live music and bringing one hell of a concert to Collingwood. My plan for the future is to bring an awesome concert there.

It’s going to happen once the world opens up again.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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