Veteran crosses country on horseback

NANAIMO – Local fundraisers help veterans saddle up for cross-Canada ride to share their stories.

Work by Canada’s veterans of peacekeeping actions and military operations have helped improve lives of people around the world.

But for veterans returning home who are trying to transition to civilian life, a thank you can go a long way toward healing the trauma of overseas missions.

Paul Nichols, a former Calgary Highlander, operates a riding centre certified by B.C. Therapeutic Riding Association and Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association in Quesnel, B.C.

Nichols served with the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment in the former Yugoslavia, during the United Nations mission there in 1993. Following the conflict, Nichols discovered what a thank-you can mean when a woman in Vancouver spotted the regimental crest on his jacket, hugged him and shared her story of life during the two-year-long siege of Sarajevo and explained that it was Canadian troops who saved their lives and eventually got her out of the conflict zone. The woman’s recognition and gratitude caused Nichols to realize the healing value of a thank you.

To help veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, Nichols and his wife, Terry, will set out from Victoria April 13 on the Changing Faces of Canadian Veterans tour, a horseback ride across Canada to raise awareness and support for traumatized veterans returning to civilian life through the Communities for Veterans Foundation.

During the 200-day trek to Newfoundland, about 700 veterans will join as guest riders. Along the way veterans will share their stories and raise money to support veterans and their families. Communities will have opportunities to show their appreciation and share stories of how veterans have improved lives.

In the days leading up to the ride, the Nichols will visit communities to raise money to support the ride, including two events in Nanaimo April 11 when the Old City Station Pub hosts a beer and burger night with silent auction. The event starts a 5 p.m. and the Nichols will be at the fundraiser.

“They’re coming to the event to give a presentation about their ride and a veteran in the area has put together the fund-raising event,” said Cathleen McMahon, events coordinator.

For more information, please visit the foundation website at www.communitiesforveterans.com.