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Medal for soldier shows role PTSD played in his death by police bullet, sister says

The Memorial Cross.

John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

A ceremony will be held today to present a military medal to the family of Greg Matters, a former soldier killed in a standoff with police at his rural British Columbia home a year ago.

Greg Matters served in the Canadian Forces for 15 years, and was injured during a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. He left the military in 2009 and was in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder when he was fatally shot by RCMP last September on his farm near Prince George.

Matters's best friend and fellow soldier, Warrant Officer Ryan Seguin, travelled from Gagetown, N.B., to present the family with the Memorial Cross – a medal awarded for soldiers whose deaths are linked to their military service.

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Matters's sister, Tracey Matters, said the medal is an acknowledgment to the family that PTSD was a major contributing factor in her brother's death.

"As a family, we are grateful to the Canadian government for recognizing the sacrifice that Greg, and our family, have made," she said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.

She said the family hopes Matters's tragic death may spur changes that will help other soldiers.

"We believe it is time for Canada to recognize its 'Unknown Fallen', the men and women who are injured physically and psychologically by military service and who, when they are discharged, continue to struggle and suffer," Tracey Matters said.

She said her brother was one of those soldiers.

"Many of these individuals die alone and their death is never recognized as being due to their military service. Their names are not written in the book of remembrance in the House of Commons. Their names are not inscribed on public memorials. They are not part of the highway of heroes, yet their injuries caused, or significantly contributed to, their deaths."

Matters's family believes he had a strong will to recover, and with the appropriate support would have overcome his mental health issues. They dispute the contention from police that Matters was suicidal the day he died.

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B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office cleared RCMP of wrongdoing in the shooting.

The investigation found that Matters's was armed with a hatchet. A Taser failed to stop him, an officer armed with a bean-bag gun did not have a clear shot, and the officer who pulled the trigger feared that the former soldier was about to strike another officer with the hatchet.

The family said many questions remain about why RCMP, who were aware of Matters's situation, chose to respond the way they did, with a helicopter and armed emergency response team.

A coroner's inquest into the shooting will take place next month.

"We hope that through Greg's death, we have been able to raise awareness of PTSD within and outside of the military and the lack of support and understanding our soldiers and veterans have to endure," Tracey Matters said.

The family hopes the inquest may make recommendations that will guide police in dealing with veterans and help military and medical professionals in treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress.

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