A massive event that has brought together veterans each summer for the past three years is coming to Chilliwack.
The Wounded Warriors Weekend, taking place July 31 to Aug. 3, is expected to draw in 250 participants to share in some much-needed relaxation, recreation and camaraderie. But more than anything, the weekend offers a chance for healing, and feeling a little less alone in the world.
The focus in on those ‘wounded warriors’ who are dealing with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. While the weekend first was started with war vets in mind, it now has grown to include a wide range of participants. RCMP members, members of the military, fire fighters, first responders and Corrections Canada employees are all welcome to take part in the activities of the weekend.
“It’s a self healing weekend,” said organizer Bill Higdon. There are no counsellors at the ready, no overly structured plans to follow. But there will be plenty to do for those who come. Last year the event was held in Slave Lake, AB and the activities offered included golfing, fishing, a motorcycle rodeo, a large gala event, a dance and a wind up party.
And none of it costs a dime to those participating. Everything from air travel from anywhere in country, to accommodations (at the Pacific Regional Training Centre’s Executive Hotel), to the recreation portion, meals and entertainment, are all offered free to those who attend.
Post traumatic stress can be debilitating, and can lead to depression and suicide.
There were a reported 178 Canadian soldier suicides between 2002 and 2014 — 20 more than the number of armed forces members killed in action. While the rate is in line with the general population, it’s believed the common link in many of those deaths is post traumatic stress disorder.
Common complaints included excessive fears and anxiety, memories that won’t go away, cold sweats and anger. Even a car backfiring in a peaceful suburban neighbourhood can trigger flashbacks. And enough of these triggers can force the country’s strongest and bravest people to barricade themselves off from the world, their friends, and even their own spouses and children.
But the tide may be turning, as post traumatic stress, depression and suicide are becoming better studied and less stigmatized.
Talking about it really can help.
And that’s really what the Wounded Warriors Weekend is all about. The organizing team is looking for partners to help make the weekend a success. The average cost to cater to each participant (including travel) is $2,500. Covering the costs for the participants eliminates any financial barriers, as many of the Wounded Warriors are no longer employed.
“We strive to bring more awareness to the Wounded Warriors Weekend that works to promote the healing of damaged souls with the combination of nature, music, compassion and renewed support,” the organizers said. Between now and the August long weekend, they will be hosting numerous fundraising events and accepting donations.
Any money in excess of what is needed for the weekend will be forwarded to next year’s committee.
HOW TO HELP
There are a few ways to help the organizing committee fundraise for the Wounded Warriors Weekend.
On Jan. 24, the Vedder Legion is holding a dinner by donation featuring pulled pork sandwiches. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are also on sale for their Valentine’s Day dinner event, to be held on Feb. 14 at the Best Western. The dinner will feature comedian Bobby Henline and Elvis tribute artist Jeff Bodner, along with a silent and live auction. Tickets are $50 and can purchased from the Vedder Legion.
To donate to the Wounded Warriors Weekend, purchase tickets, sponsor a participant, or nominate a ‘wounded warrior’ contact Jeff Bodner at 604-316-7882 or visit www.woundedwarriorsweekend.org.
Bobby Henline started his working life as a soldier, but today spends his time as a motivational speaker and comedian. Henline was a veteran of Desert Storm by the age of 19. He was stirred to enlist again after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq three times with the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Armored Calvary regiment.
On his fourth tour, on Apr. 7, 2007, a Humvee was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb just north of Baghdad. Four men were killed. While Henline was the sole survivor, almost 40 per cent of his body was burned. His head was burned to the skull and he spent the next six months in hospital. To date, he’s had more than 40 surgeries, and is an amputee.
Henline has chosen to look at his situation in a positive light. At the urging of a therapist, he has pursued his new career, speaking with humour and honesty on stage around North America for the past several years.
To learn more about Bobby Henline, visit bobbyhenline.com.