Two years ago, Graeme Hafey found out he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A Canadian Armed Forces veteran, who was part of the Royal Canadian Navy as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force, Hafey said he was trained to keep a level-head and calm demeanour.
“It was only two years ago that I realized I had PTSD, and it made sense,” Hafey said. “I had nightmares and cold sweats … I went to the point where I couldn’t handle my stress.”
Hafey started off as a bridge officer in the navy because his dad was in it but he said he always wanted to fly. He went back to school to take prerequisites for the air force and in 1993, earned his wings.
Hafey flew search and rescue missions and then left the military, taking some time to work in commercial flying and truck driving for a while. But he missed the adventure and camaraderie so quickly went back to the navy where he had the opportunity to fly a Sea King for about 1,200 hours.
“It was challenging but rewarding to fly,” Hafey said.
Shortly after 9/11, Hafey went to the Middle East and was in areas such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
“We flew a machine gun, armed ourselves and searched for people smuggling arms and bad guys,” Hafey said. “It was quite rewarding working with the coalition force.”
But pilots need to be even-keeled, he said. They need to be able to keep calm under high-stress situations. When Hafey wasn’t able to do that anymore, he became a policy advisor to the commanding officer.
Now, as a veteran, Hafey said he is “intent on serving again” to help his brothers and sisters in arms have a better quality of life.”
Hafey is now the owner of V2V Black Hops Brewing, a veteran-run, non-profit with a mission to support PTSD and therapy programs for military and first responder veterans. The company currently sells two types of beer — an English-style bitter ale called Victory Ale dedicated to the army and a blonde ale dedicated to the navy called The Brig.
Hafey and one of his dedicated volunteers who is a first responder himself — Jason Stewart — said they are working on two more beers that will eventually join the group as well. One will be dedicated to the Air Force and another for first responders.
The beer can be found in local retail liquor stores as well as in local pubs on tap. Proceeds go towards Cockrell House, a homeless veteran’s shelter in Colwood; Can Praxis, an Alberta equine therapy organization for military and first responder veterans coping with PTSD and mental health issues; and Camp My Way, a wilderness therapy program for combat veterans, first responders and their families who have been affected by PTSD.
With the 75th anniversary of D-Day taking place this year, Hafey reflected on the tremendous respect he has for the many people who fought in the Second World War.
“People don’t realize until they’ve actually served what it takes … the challenges and danger you face … and you signed up for that,” Hafey said. “There were so many people in that operation and so many people who were lost … those people are the true heroes.”
Hafey hopes to take his children to the beaches in Normandy one day as well as Vimy Ridge so they can have an understanding of what it was like.