Cavalcade to pass through capital region
Wounded Warriors event helps vets, emergency first responders with PTSD
Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 06:00 am
Noon to 2:30 p.m.
Airplanes arrive at Edmonton International Airport and Wounded Warriors greeted. Honour Guard provided by Edmonton area Legions, Cadets and RCMP
3 to 7 p.m.
Cavalcade of buses to Slave Lake
7 to 9 p.m.
Cavalcade welcomed with fanfare.
Slave Lake is getting ready to host a few hundred military veterans, emergency first responders and caregivers for a long weekend of rest, relaxation, recreation and gratitude.
The Wounded Warriors Weekend is set for four days of golfing, fishing and other activities, all in the hopes of showing the participants the appreciation of the public at large.
The event started in Saskatchewan in 2011 when Air Force veteran Blake Emmons wanted to share a weekend of outdoor experiences with 20 of his fellow veterans, all of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He, along with his friend Jimmy Chute, set about creating an event in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. It was important to them to show these ‘Wounded Warriors’ that somebody did indeed care.
That first weekend saw nearly 150 participants come together from across Canada and the United States, including several first responders who attended Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center disaster.
The next year, Nipawin hosted nearly 250 participants from those two countries plus Australia and the United Kingdom.
“It started off like most great things: very slowly, and it grew and grew,” said Don Clarke, the Alberta director of events. “We were asked to move it from Saskatchewan, and Alberta became our next place we’d like to have it.”
Slave Lake was chosen because of the devastating fire there that ravaged the town three years ago. Many emergency first responders endured a great deal of stress as 7,000 area residents were forced to evacuate, leaving more than 400 homes and businesses destroyed, the damage of which was estimated at approximately $700 million. It was determined that the fire was caused by arson.
The town is still recovering, but Clarke said that everybody there is ready for a moment like this.
“They’re ready to come out if you will have their coming out party. They were only too happy. It just made a nice fit for the overall thing.”
The weekend will start off with a procession as approximately 180 visiting veterans arrive at the Edmonton International Airport.
They will make their way to Slave Lake along a pathway that will miss this city, but Clarke knows that there are St. Albertans and residents of Morinville and Sturgeon County who are interested in witnessing the procession.
“As we experienced in Saskatchewan, when we left Saskatoon to drive to Nipawin … we were amazed at the amount of moms and mads with their kids sitting on lawn chairs, off on the service road as we went up the highway waving, all the way to Nipawin. It was their way of saying thanks to the veterans and first responders,” he said.
“We found people along the way in Saskatchewan had driven 10, 15, 20 miles to be over when the time came. We’d love to go through Edmonton and St. Albert too, but the cavalcade just doesn’t fit.”
Arriving with the cavalcade and attending the weekend’s events will be the current Miss World, Megan Young. She will be joined by Julia Morley, the chairman and chief executive of the Miss World Organization.
“I have always had a hands-on approach to awareness-raising projects, whether it is housing homeless families across around the world, the health missions to Haiti, or in this instance raising awareness of the challenges faced by our veterans,” Morley said in a prepared statement.
Clarke knows that the effects of PTSD run deep but feels that this weekend does help, even in small ways.
“It’s not a cure by any means. I wish it was,” he said.
“If you could see the difference it made to the veterans … they realized as they had before that they’re not alone. It’s a small enough way of trying to say, ‘thanks and we’re all with you.’”
An important aspect of this weekend features red dots, Clarke said. Many of the attendees wear them on their chests if they request not to talk about their traumatizing experiences unless they start the conversation.
“When the three days was over, I personally saw a lot of them take the dot off because they felt a little more at ease.”
The weekend will also see a flag being passed from Royal Canadian Legion branch #120 from Nipawin to Royal Canadian Legion #110 in Slave Lake to make it known as the ‘Mother Church’ for the 2014 event. A poppy war memorial, originally installed at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, will be shipped over for viewing during the weekend as well.
This memorial will be on display at various events during the weekend.
Volunteers are still needed to assist with all events at all venues. People can offer their time and energy by calling 780-849-4288.
Donations are also requested. To learn more about the weekend or how you can help, please visit www.woundedwarriorsweekend.com.