Thursday, February 27, 2014



This year`s CAN-AM 250 race is dedicated to those who came back from Afghanistan but who have still not found “Peace of Mind” and who are contemplating in doing the “deed”.

Once upon a time or rather on a very specific date in early December 2013, a young combat veteran, afflicted with PTSD takes his own life. A somewhat shocking event, this particular incident brought back to the surface the ever ongoing debate in my head as to if I should lower the flag at half-mast at “CIMENT HILL”. The decision was a “No Brainer” and out of respect for the “Fallen”, I did. Let`s face it, here was an individual who had survived the atrocities of war only to come back with a serious form of mental injury. An injury so perplexed it is said, that even within today`s modern medical world, they still don`t fully understand the symptoms, never mind trying to cure it. Yes this poor soul had physically returned home from the “Sand Box” but in his mind set, he was still walking around somewhere out there “outside the wire” , in full battle gear, armed to the teeth, super alert in a hyper-vigilant state, waiting to encounter, engage and terminate the enemy. Of course, this was all in his head and the system was to and did provide him with some form of assistance. However, this was to prove to be nonetheless a “band-aid solution” to a most traumatic psychological wound. Looking for relief and deliverance, he decided to take matters into his own hands and end the suffering…

As tragic as this episode might sound, this was not to be an isolated occurrence and as we would soon hear in the medias, this would turn out to be a precursor to a series of events where an additional eight (8) current or retired service members would take their own lives and this in the span of just over two months. Now this is where it gets interesting. If you were to throw in the mix the other veterans that also did commit suicide in the previous months of 2013 and pile on top of all this, those of the previous years since the beginning of our commitment “over there”, one would want to ask the question as to what kind of treatments these soldiers are actually receiving. As I write these lines today (26 Feb 14), two more soldiers took their own lives in the last few days. After hearing this latest news, I really needed some fresh air to process all of this so I disappeared into the backcountry for a final training run. Running this through my mind, it didn`t matter how I dissected it, viewed from the runners of my sled, it painted a bleak picture of epidemic proportions. Of course, when compared to the USA where they lose an average of 22 soldiers a day to suicide, our numbers do sound relatively insignificant. However and with that said, when you consider that our Armed Forces are in the 60,000 troop numbers and you realize that less than one third of these are Combat Arms ground pounders (Those guys that took on the blunt of the dirty jobs of mixing it up with the insurgents), all of a sudden these small numbers translate into statistics that are staggering if not alarming.

Anyway, because of the events of last December and January, that poor flag at “CIMENT HILL” never did see the day where it was to be raised again to the top of the pole. To make matters worse, in one of the severe rain and ice storms of this past January, the weather succeeded in ripping it to shreds, destroying our proud country`s national emblem. When I collected the pieces of the tattered rags all over the grounds, it made my mind wander only to ponder on further pertinent questions. – Was this some obscure form of distress call? Was this an indication that the government was way over their heads with this dilemma? Were they planning to do some additional “something” about all of this? Did they really care for those who put their lives on the line so to represent Canada in this infamous so-called “War on Terrorism”? To all these I did not have the answer but one thing was for sure. I had been there and gotten the T-Shirt and knew why some of these individuals would want to choose to end the “suffering”.

  To those who did take their own lives, the only thing we can add is “God Speed” and “You can now Stand Easy as your time in Hell is over”. However, to the other too many “Zombies” walking around with demons and ghosts that have invaded your minds, you guys should not despair. There is honest to goodness real help out there and it comes in many forms. If and when the mood does settle in, your first line of defense should be to take whatever courage you have left inside you and try to live the next “24 hours”. In a lot of circumstances, this will help in dealing with this immediate sudden urge. Secondly, do not be afraid and do speak to someone. Allow yourself to explore other points of views. A lot of times, when someone convinces you that the glass is half full and not half empty, this can do wonders to lift your spirits. And lastly, do focus and reach real deep inside you. You and only you have the power to get out of that depressive state of mind. Simply “crack your knuckles” and allow yourself to visit some happy times in your “previous life” and remind yourself of what still makes you “tick”. It is a wonderful venture when someone can find a hobby and/or a passion that can make him forget the nightmarish thoughts that cloud his mind. Yes it is a given that the demons and ghosts will be constant companions that will live with you for the rest of your lives but instead of allowing them to invade your space, take the opportunity to take a stance and control the outcome of this nasty mind game. You see these aggressors are for most of them a bunch of lazy and out of shape souls. Heaven forbid if you participate in any form of physical activities. This, they do not like as this might promote the secretion of hormones called endorphins, a natural stimulant in the body that promotes wellness. Yes Folks, you heard right. Physical activities in any form will help you fight off these entities and keep them in check. I have to submit to you though that for my person, it took a very long time to realize that the choices were simple - Continue to “Party Hardy” to numb the memories and allow the demons to control my existence or “Stay Sober and Addiction Free” so to become stronger than them. I know that might sound a bit simplistic but speaking from experience, it can be done. One simply needs the willpower to set some realistic goals that one might want to attain and then “Go for it”. In my case I chose dog sledding as a way to escape. I chose this sport because I love dogs. To make a very long story short, at one point I ended up in a small town called Fort-Kent, Maine, to assist at the starts of the CAN-AM races. It was in early March 2001, sometimes soon after I “pulled the plug” and retired from the military. A worn-out broken down soldier, the “Head Shed” had put me through the “wringer” by sending me to most of those many exotic places where they were deploying Canadian troops after the “Berlin Wall” came down. Then the “winds of changes” made it that the system decided that I was no longer of any use therefore flushed me down the sewer system of “Civie street” like dirty used up toilet paper. “Oh yeah,” they said, “Go out there and enjoy life”. And, Boy-o-Boy, did I ever. Drinking like a drowning fish and dabbling in that delightful “Nose Candy”, I was using these “poisons” to fight off the thousands of ghosts crowding my skull. Soon enough the poison created demons and they all joined forces. Between them, they brought me so low that I had lost the will to live. But for some reason, I still had a ray of hope and when I saw all those excited sleddogs barking and banging in their harnesses in the “Starting Chute”, this lit a flicker of a spark inside me, a tiny little flame that would not only warm my stone cold emotionless rock of a heart but one that would also guide me through that very long dark tunnel. Yes, I will admit that it was a hard and hazardous journey and that in many instances I just wanted to re-join my “friends”, the demons, but for some reason, the love and compassion that these canine trail companions gave me, helped me muster enough courage to continue pushing forward.

Today, I still have to deal with this crap that I have in my head but instead of riding with ghosts all the time, when I evade to the safety of the woods, these entities choose to leave me alone and hide. Let`s face it, running a dog team is hard physical work and they`re a lazy bunch and they hate the cold. So, to make a story that`s starting to get long winded, I am embarking in this year`s 250 mile race bringing along all of you soldiers that feel that you`ve been abandoned and left behind. I will try to tap into your energy and if we pool together, this might just provide me with enough incentive to cross the finish line. Trust me, this is not a given. I tried last year and met up with some of these old ghost friends of mine. Lack of sleep made it that the nice fluffy falling snow shining in the beam of my headlamp turned into tracer rounds being fired at me in the middle of the night. That “Angel Hair” that is so beautiful to see hanging like decorations in spruce trees all of sudden transformed in hundreds of little evil enemy elves with “camo” paint all over their faces. For half an hour or so, I wasn`t in the backwoods of Allagash but rather back on patrol in one of those god forsaken hell holes. Yes “Boyz” you`re not alone and this is normal when you have some form of Operational Stress Injury. Panic attacks are part of the “game”. How did I get out of it? I focused on the rhythmic cadence of my faithful dog team and the music of their feet brought me back to reality. I still scratched but vowed that I would not be defeated by those playing games in my head. Completing the CAN-AM 250 is not a given especially for an “old fart” full of arthritis but what is important to retain, like most of you, I`m of those guys that has seen what the bowels of humanity have had to offer and we survived it. Sure it has affected us. However and this most important to remember, “The Canadian Soldier is one that is made from the strongest “Kevlar” material and it is inside every one of us, this “Will to Survive”. Time and time again, we have been tested only to have earned a worldwide reputation of being a selected few of proud proven professionals. If all fails and one wants to continue down the path to “Inner Peace”, then try this for a change. Straighten those shoulders back, pump your chest out and look at them straight in the eyes. From the bottom of your guts, let it out and tell them “You`ve had your last meal “Demons”. Time to fucken check out!”

Remember “Boyz”, we`re much better than this. Find something that makes you “Feel Alive” and “Keep on Trucking”.

Now that the rant is over, I just hope that I can live by what I preach and finish this thirteen year project. = -)

Soldier On “Boyz”, Soldier On!

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