ANDREW: 'He had a huge heart.' Hear from a trailblazing Silver Cross Mother

Private Thomas Welch came back to Canada from Afghanistan in 2004. Less than three months later, he took his own life.

He was born in Thunder Bay in 1981, served as an infantryman and member of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa. 

Thomas is now acknowledged as the first Canadian soldier lost to suicide after the mission in Afghanistan, after his mother, Anita Cenerini, fought for him to receive full military honours.

Last week, Cenerini was selected as the 2018 National Silver Cross Mother. She now begins a full year of carrying out special duties, including laying a wreath in Ottawa this Sunday for Remembrance Day . 

Andrew Carter spoke with her from her home in Winnipeg. 

"He was a great kid, and a great guy, and an incredible sense of humour," she recalled. "He had a huge heart." The Royal Canadian Legion notes he loved hiking and snowboarding and the outdoors, and that his "enthusiasm and caring nature were infectious."

Anita says a change was noticeable when she spoke with Thomas by phone during his posting to Afghanistan. She used up a phone card for a three-hour conversation with Thomas after the death of a colleague. When he was on leave in Canada, their family picked up on 'subtle changes' that they interpreted as red flags, like agitation and expressions of anger. 

"It's my hope that people will hear Thomas's story and reach out for the services now implemented for the help that they need," said Anita. "They are deserving of that dignity and that care. Thomas deserved to have his voice heard, and it's only his mom that heard his voice.'

 

Learn more about Thomas Welch and his mother, Anita, at the Legion's site here