By Spencer McBride, The Guard –
Last week, from 11-22 February 2019, the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group’s Soldier On Program hosted an interactive introductory camp designed to motivate ill and injured personnel to challenge themselves in a safe and supportive environment. The camp brought together three serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and seven veterans, all of whom acquired an illness or a physical or mental health injury while serving Canada, alongside six ill or injured participants each from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The activities included Nordic/alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, bobsleigh/skeleton, sledge hockey and ziplining.
The camp was of special interest in the National Capital Region (NCR), as two members on the Canadian team are Ottawa locals – Warrant Officer (Retired) Walter Galant and Captain (Retired) Michelle Kerr.
WO (ret’d) Walter Galant, a former Geomatics Technician, retired from the CAF in 2005, and now resides in Ottawa, Ontario, working for DND as a Geomatics Analyst. Walter has participated in Soldier On activities such as sailing and equestrian camps, and went to Soldier On’s Allied Winter Sports Camp as part of the Canadian Ski Team.
When WO Galant was released in 2005, he found it difficult to receive support as an injured veteran. That changed with his discovery of Soldier On. The active participation in sport alongside fellow CAF members going through similar struggles was instrumental to his improvement, and WO Galant says, “it helped me connect, avoid isolating, and has become a part of my healing process.” WO Galant is grateful for all the support he has received, and encourages others to reach out.
This was the first experience with Soldier On for Captain (ret’d) Michelle Kerr. She says it took three years after releasing from the CAF to feel ready to get involved, as she was both worried about the stigma or judgment, and feared taking a spot away from someone else in need. This fear was dispelled only after joining Soldier On. “I met the most wide-smiled, charismatic, and exuberant Aussie who instantly made me feel at ease,” she says. “She would be the first of many friends whom I found to have similar experiences, emotions and fears.” She urges any members considering Soldier On to do so, and not deprive themselves of the opportunity, as the supportive and non-judgmental community she found in Soldier On leads to boundless possibilities and benefits. “We all took varying paths to get here; however, we all have the same goal – healing.” Captain Kerr is grateful both for the opportunity to heal through sport, and for the friends that she has gained in that pursuit.
Our congratulations go out to all 28 participants in the games, across the four nations. The CAF honours their commitment to health and healthy competition, and applauds their success. To both WO (ret’d) Walter Galant and Capt (ret’d) Michelle Kerr, Bravo Zulu!
You can learn more about the event on the Soldier On website, or from their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This post is also available in: Français (French)