Winnipeg mom named Silver Cross Mother

Laurie Jackson, Anita Cerenini, Frank Emond, Lieutenant-Colonel Lonnie Fleischhacker
Left to right: Laurie Jackson, Family Liaison Officer with the Winnipeg Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC), Anita Cenerini, National Silver Cross Mother, Frank Emond, Services Manager, Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC), and Acting 17 Wing Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lonnie Fleischhacker. LCol Fleischhacker thanks Ms. Cenerini for honouring the sacrifice of her son at the Winnipeg MFRC on November 1, 2018. Photo: Bill McLeod, The Voxair

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By Martin Zeilig – The Voxair

Anita Cenerini of Winnipeg was named Canada’s National Silver Cross Mother on November 1, the first Silver Cross Mother whose son died of suicide directly related to his military service. On the day she was named Silver Cross Mother, she brought a message of hope, understanding, dignity and compassion in a presentation at the Winnipeg Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) at 17 Wing.

Private Thomas Welch, her son, committed suicide on May 8, 2004, just over two months after returning from a six month tour in Afghanistan.

Ms. Cenerini was the special guest speaker at the monthly MFRC Coffee Break, attended by some 75 military and civilian personnel.

Image gallery

  • Laurie Jackson, Anita Cerenini, Frank Emond, Lieutenant-Colonel Lonnie Fleischhacker
  • Anita Cenerini, National Silver Cross Mother

Lieutenant-Colonel Lonnie Fleischhacker, Acting 17 Wing Commander, said to her, “You carry with you our utmost respect and honour for your son.”

Laurie Jackson, Family Liaison Officer with the MFRC, called Ms. Cenerini quite a remarkable woman, adding “To still be so compassionate and genuine, and wanting to not only honour her son, but all military members who have boots on the ground shows her strength of character.”

“My appointment this year is the first Silver Cross Mother to have ever been chosen after her son or daughter has died because of suicide,” Ms. Cenerini said.

“This awareness is something that Canada is talking about too,” she added. “It’s at the forefront of our country with regards to mental illness, suicide and the impact that it has on peoples’ lives, and the stigmas that have always been attached to it.”

“This is a very important time to bridge what Canada is doing as a whole with what the military is doing. I think that it’s an incredible opportunity for Canada as a whole, and the military and Canadians in general.” Anita Cenerini, Silver Cross Mother

She called her son, whose nickname was “Little Trooper”, a very courageous young man. “He was very loyal,” she said. “When he joined the military it was a few weeks before 9/11 happened. He walked up beside me and put his arm around me and baby Jacob, who was in my arms. He said, ‘Mom, they’re going to need me more now than ever.’ I think that memory of Thomas depicts who he was as a person. It depicts his strength of character and loyalty, his integrity and courage but, it also depicts the love he had for family, the care and compassion he had for others,” she added.

She never thought that thirteen years after her son’s suicide that she’d be involved with 17 Wing again.

“The morning that Thomas’s story was in the papers, a retired military member on the East Coast called me and set me up with Frank,” Ms. Cenerini continued. Frank Emond is the Services Manager at the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) Winnipeg.

“Frank assured me that he was going to fight for me,” Ms. Cenerini emphasized quietly. “He took on the challenge of trying to have Thomas’s death recognized as being attributable to service. The journey was difficult, like anytime you try to re-open the wounds that you tried to heal. So, I felt renewed in my strength in having Frank, an incredible person of dedication, loyalty, care and compassion in so many ways.”

She laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day at the National Ceremony on November 11.

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