Saturday, October 16, 2010

Brian Dyck: Remember his name

Brian Dyck's wife Natali and daughter Sophi were the loves of his life. To express that, he had an angel wing tattooed on each of his arms.Photograph by: Image supplied, Dyck family

Warrior Brian Dyck was laid to rest last week:

Brian Dyck's family, including his widow, Natali Senechal, centre, and  daughter, Sophi, 2, bid an emotional farewell as his casket is carried away from Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church by police officers.

Brian Dyck's family, including his widow, Natali Senechal, centre, and daughter, Sophi, 2, bid an emotional farewell as his casket is carried away from Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church by police officers.

Photograph by: Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen

Funeral for veteran who fought for ALS benefits

Brian Dyck called out the federal government and Veterans Affairs in August for failing to aid former soldiers like himself who suffered from ALS. His own appeal for benefits was allowed a month later." (CBC)

More than 500 police officers filled a church in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood Wednesday morning for the funeral of one of their colleagues, Canadian Forces veteran Brian Dyck, known for his fight to get benefits for vets with Lou Gehrig's disease.

The Ottawa police officer died Friday at age 42 after battling the illness, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, for just over a year.

Dyck realized his death was imminent last fall and had prepared his own slideshow and poem for the funeral mass, which fellow patrolman Eli Edwards said made it all the more emotional.

"It's tough, you know, especially to see he's only been married a few years, and their daughter is just around two years old," Edwards said. "It's just hard to watch a young family lose the man of the house."

Took government to task

A veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Dyck rose to national prominence for taking the government to task for denying health benefits to veterans with the degenerative disease.

Dyck said the United States recognizes a link between higher-than-usual rates of ALS among servicemen and women, particularly those who served in the Gulf War, and offered full disability, lifetime health and death benefits regardless of when or where they served. But Canada was still handling cases on an individual basis, he said.

"My advice to the ministry is if you are not willing to stand behind the troops, feel free to stand in front of them," Dyck had said in August at a news conference alongside Pat Stogran, Canada's outgoing ombudsman for veterans.

In February, his claim for benefits and a pension for his wife and daughter was rejected, but weeks before his death, his appeal was allowed...(CBC here)

A Canadian combat medic veteran, Brian Dyck died as he lived - fighting. Just as he did on the battlefields, he leaves a great legacy whose effects will be felt by other veterans and their families:

An Ottawa police officer for the last years of his life, Brian Dyck's life and legacy will continue to leave a mark on Canada:

Thanks to Brian, future vets with ALS will now be taken care of financially and have much needed benefits available to them.

It's been less than a year since he was originally diagnosed but Brian is in a wheelchair, can barely move his hands and struggles to breathe. He is taking it day-by-day but each day is such a struggle. ..


I've attached an article I wrote for Blue Line Magazine, Canada's national law enforcement magazine. It will give a little history about Brian and how he came to be diagnosed. The article originally appeared in the Aug/Sept issue. Keep in mind that the original interview was done in May.


After serving and fighting for his country an officer counts on family and friends
by Tony Palermo

Ottawa Police constables Brian Dyck and Trevor Dunlop knew the prostitute well. She made no attempt to hide the crack pipe in her hand as they approached from the rear on their mountain bikes. Using the element of surprise, Dyck reached out and grabbed her wrist while Dunlop secured her other arm. She struggled and both officers fell to the ground laughing while trying to gain control and handcuff her.

“Oh man,” said Dyck. “She had to weigh a buck ten soaking wet. She had a lot of fight in her.” With the handcuffs on, the struggle was over and as usual, the prisoner became compliant. Dyck gave her the chance to sit or stand. She chose to stand but within minutes, was making a run for it down the street. Even cuffed, she was surprisingly fast. Dyck, a former military special forces member, gave chase, figuring he would let her tire herself out. It wasn’t long though before something didn’t feel right.

Dyck realized that his left leg was starting to give out. He reached for the prostitute to end the chase. Dunlop caught up and, after making sure the prisoner was secure, looked at Dyck and started laughing again. “What the hell is up with you?”

A few months later, after several doctors visits and tests, Dyck sat in the office of Dr. Pierre Bourque, a neurologist at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus. It was October 20, 2009. “Brian,” said Bourque, “all I’m seeing is ALS.”

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a lethal neuromuscular disease often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the New York Yankees baseball player who died from it in 1941 at age 37. Sufferers experience a loss of control over their mobility and become progressively paralyzed, essentially trapped in their own bodies, able to still feel sensations but unable to respond. Their muscles atrophy and they physically become a shadow of their former selves. Throughout it all, their minds remain intact.

The catch phrase withALS is 3-to-5, meaning most patients die within three to five years of diagnosis. They usually die by asphyxiation, literally choking to death, fully aware but unable to do anything about it. “That’s my biggest fear,” aid Dyck. “I’ve been told that most go quietly. The breathing just slows and…”

A few seconds later he adds “I really hope that’s me.”

Right after being diagnosed, Dyck and wife Natali, also an Ottawa police officer, went to Syracuse, New York just to get away and create some distance between them and the harsh diagnosis. A few days later, they started the emotional task of calling family and friends and Dyck was visited by an old military buddy.

“He brought me his brand new Harley,” said Dyck. “He told me that it was insured and to ride the hell out of it – that as long as the handlebars came back, he’d be happy.” As Dyck pulled out of the driveway, the song “It’s not my time” by 3 Doors Down started to play on the CD. The refrain goes:

Cause it’s not my time, I’m not going
There’s a fear in me, it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Oh, but I won’t go

With cold tears freezing to his face, Dyck rode the hell out of that bike.


Dyck grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. At 6’ 4” and 240 pounds at his heaviest, he had a passion for both the military and law enforcement. Determined to see the world, he enlisted as a medic, happy to get off the farm and experience the camaraderie and esprit de corps that military life offers.

Nine years later, he was selected to join the elite and highly secretive Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) unit. As a medic and JTF2 soldier he was deployed several times all over the world. The JTF2 unit is based out of Dwyer Hill on the outskirts of Ottawa and it was here that Dyck grew to love the city. Wanting to settle down and pursue his other passion, in January 2002, after 14 years serving his country, Dyck became a proud member of the Ottawa Police Service. He remained active until shortly after his diagnosis.

Less than seven months after being diagnosed,Dyck struggles with daily tasks, barely able to use a walker. He needs help to eat, wash and to go to the bathroom and cannot dress himself.

“I’m going to need a wheelchair soon,” he said. “The only reason I’m still using the walker is because I lock my knees. It’s almost impossible to do now. I took a good spill last week and cracked my head pretty good against the door frame. That one hurt.” ...

This is a wonderful article about this amazing warrior. Go here to read it all. As Brian's family mourns the loss of their husband and father, many within the political realm will also remember this staunch spirit:

June 19, 2010 - The Veterans Ombudsman is fighting for Brian Dyck, ALS victim

Veterans Ombudsman, Patrick B. Stogran, participated in the Walk for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) on Saturday, June 19th, 2010, in Ottawa. The Ombudsman walked in support of Bryan Dyck who served his country for 14 years as a member of the Canadian Forces – including a deployment to the Gulf War in 1991 – and served the City of Ottawa as a police officer for nine years.


Although U.S. veterans with ALS, or their survivors, are eligible for full health care and benefits, as a result of a Harvard University School of Public Health study finding that Veterans with military service in theatres of war are 60 percent more likely to die of ALS than the civilian population, in Canada, Brian Dyck’s application was denied.

The Veterans Ombudsman is working to right this wrong. He is fighting for Brian Dyck, his wife Natali (also a City of Ottawa police officer), and their 19-month-old daughter Sophi.

The Veterans Ombudsman is fighting for Brian Dyck, ALS victim

Bryan Dyck and Pat Stogran (Veterans' Ombudsman here)

There is a condolence book online here. I was not privileged to know Brian Dyck, but I know that what this man gave in service to his country will live on both within the hearts of his precious daughter, and within the military community.

THANK YOU, Brian, for your service to Canada. Rest in peace now, rest in peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THank you for taking the time to write about Brian!!He was an amazing man who has left a hole in many of our lives. He was a husband, father, son, brother and Uncle! We miss him always! We are also very proud of what he has done for future veterans that face hardship like he did, as others before him! We wish more people would be more aware of this - again from the Dyck family thank you for taking the time to keep people informed!