Happy New Year to you all. Hopefully the COVID gods will look kindly on us all in 2022. With this first post of 2022, I want to look at the reason for this blog and the reason for the ride that I will be joining in June. Clearly, the reason is Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC). This is a good time to dig into the origins and the work of WWC, what happens with your donations and why this is so personal for me.
First a bit about me. I grew up in a military family. I was born in Chilliwack, BC, the home of Canadian Military Engineers (CME) until the base was closed and all CME units were moved to other parts of the country. My father was a military engineer as were both of my grandfathers. So, when I graduated from high school, I followed their lead and became a military engineer. Within the Armed Forces, military engineers are known as “sappers”. “Sapper” is also what a private soldier is called within the CME. This quick synopsis of my military lineage is just a teaser because I intend to dedicate a full post to my family history; specifically, one of my grandfathers. I promise, it won’t be boring! Now, back to our regular scheduled post.
On 18 September 2006, Sapper Mike McTeague was in a group of NATO soldiers handing out gifts to children. A suicide bomber on a bicycle detonated an explosive that killed four soldiers and injured 11 others along with 27 Afghan civilians. McTeague was one of those wounded and was evacuated to the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. He was not expected to live, but with the help of his father and very dedicated medical staffs at Landstuhl and back in Canada, McTeague beat the odds.
From this tragedy, the Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warrior Fund was founded to support all Canadian Forces members wounded during operations. Over the years, this fund has evolved into Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC), a national mental health service provider for Canada’s Veterans, First Responders and their families, who have developed Operational Stress Injuries (OSIs), such as PTSD, as a result of the work that they do to serve and protect us all. It is important here to make note of what, in my opinion, makes WWC so significant – the OSIs suffered by the veterans and first responders also impact families and WWC has developed a number of programs to help spouses and children understand what is happening and how to help.
As a veteran, I have seen the impact of OSIs on my fellow soldiers. Now, I also see the power that OSIs have on paramedics, police officers and fire fighters. The tragedies that form their daily lives also impact members of their families. I think back a couple of years to 6 April 2018 and the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Sixteen players and staff of the team were killed and another thirteen were severely injured when a truck driver failed to yield at a stop sign. An estimated 80 first responders were called to the scene of the crash. They went about the work that they were trained to do. But, eventually they had to go home to be alone with their thoughts and to wrestle with the horror that they had seen. To help them, many of the agencies that these first responders were from sent mental health support teams. Included in the support provided were WWC.
I have mentioned several times that for me, this is personal. My grandfather was a sapper in WW1. He began the war as a sapper and was repatriated as a captain while earning the Military Cross and Bar and the Military Medal along the way. Although he was never physically injured, he suffered from what was then referred to as shell shock. Unlike the support received by first responders to the bus crash, for my grandfather and so many other soldiers returning from Europe suffering from shell shock, treatment was not offered. So, like many of his fellow veterans, he found comfort in a bottle.
Attitudes towards mental disorders and especially OSIs has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. Mental disorders such as PTSD, depression and anxiety conditions no longer carry the stigma and dishonour that used to accompany them. Governments, at all levels, have begun to assume the responsibilities they have to help their members. Yet, there is still a need for outside agencies to assist. This is where WWC fits in.
The WWC page of this blog goes into more detail about the programs offered by WWC. I would ask that you take a moment to visit the page to learn about the programs offered.
For more information on the programs offered by Wounded Warriors Canada or if you know anyone who you think may benefit from their programs, visit https://woundedwarriors.ca.
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Safe 2022!
Honour the Fallen, Help the Living