Laval native pays it forward

Afghan experience pushes solider to be there for others

By Rhonda Massad
www.thesuburban.com

After a close brush with death in Afghanistan, former Laval resident Cpl. Franck Dupéré has chosen to channel his life into a career as a motivational speaker. His experience as a soldier in Afghanistan has led him to speak to high school students, veterans and sports teams about his drive to accept what life has dealt him and grow from it.

Today Dupéré divides his time between public speaking engagements and his volunteer work for the Army’s Helping Peers program under the G1 personnel in 34 Brigade.

“I give courses in resilience, training people to help their peers who may be in crisis,” Dupéré explained, “the training program gives the unit resource people for anyone who may be in need. The program is a Montreal initiative and only available in Montreal at this point, but I expect it to grow.”

Cpl. Dupéré joined the Canadian Forces when he was 16 years old. He signed up with Laval’s 4th Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment. After completing his basic training course he qualified to operate machine guns and communication devices. With a tour in ex-Yugoslavia in 2001 under his belt, he accepted a mission to Afghanistan in 2008.

In 2011, he experienced the nightmare that civilians can only imagine. A suicide bomber strapped with over 150 pounds of explosives detonated the device within a few metres of Cpl. Dupéré.

Thrown like a puppet by the blast, he was certain he was doomed when he looked down and saw the slice in his throat. Fortunately for him, he was right next to an experienced medic who took control of the situation and performed a tracheotomy right there on the front lines—with no anesthetic. The emergency intervention saved Cpl. Dupéré’s life.

Days later, Cpl. Dupéré woke up in a trauma treatment hospital in Germany. The doctor there explained his injuries to him and what had happened.

“I had lost several days of my life—from the battlefield to the hospital in Germany,” he explained to The Suburban in an interview, “I thought to myself, I have lost the sight in one eye, I can still see. I have lost the dexterity in my left hand, not in my dominant hand. I speak weirdly, but can still I speak. I can sit here and cry—or be thankful that I am not dead.”

After more than 18 surgeries with another few still to go, Cpl. Dupéré has courageously accepted the path that life has given him. He now shares his inspirational attitude and generous spirit find by giving motivational speeches to anyone who needs him.

“Many times, veterans will call me instead of a social worker because they know that I won’t judge them,” he explained. “Sometimes these guys come back without a scratch on them but are hitting rock bottom.”

“I did not hit rock bottom mentally but, physically, I know what it’s like to have to relearn how to walk and how to talk. I live with scars. I can help people who are in despair.”

“In the past year I have spoken at schools and hospitals, my goal is to work full-time as a motivational speaker once my three remaining surgeries are completed.”

You can follow Cpl. Franck Dupéré on Facebook or contact him via his website at www.franckdupere.com.
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