CAF Veterans walking 175 kilometres to Ottawa for Wounded Warriors Canada
COBDEN, ONT. -- It was around 8:30 a.m. when Dylan Pace and his team of four made their way up Highway 17 and into the parking lot of Whitewater Brewing Company in Cobden.
They had left CFB Petawawa at 12:00 a.m. Saturday and had been walking nonstop up until that point.
"I would say mentally we're all doing pretty good. It's one of those things where you put yourself in the zone," says Pace, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran and organizer of the Walk For The Wounded.
Pace came up with the idea for the 175 kilometre walk from CFB Petawawa to the National War Memorial in Ottawa, to support Wounded Warriors Canada. The organization provides care and support to wounded veterans and first responders who suffer from occupational stress injuries such as PTSD.
"Especially on a year like this both for the organization and the individuals that have a hard time with isolation as is, and then stuck for months on end with not much other contact," explained Pace.
"And for the organization, they depend predominantly on group fundraisers. And the year obviously with COVID, no group settings, a lot of their fundraising has been tried to be made up on the fly because they weren’t prepared for it."
Their goal was to raise $22,000 for Wounded Warriors Canada, representing the 22 veterans that die by suicide every day.
"Predominantly that’s in the (United States)," notes Pace. "We work hand in hand with them, both domestically and overseas... Whether we’ve served together or not, there’s a bond between people who have gone through that and we’re always there for them."
As of Saturday, the team has raised over $25,000.
During the walk the group is also stopping to do 22 push ups every hour on the hour. They’re also taking on the journey wearing weighted vests with the name patches of friends and colleagues they have lost.
"The weighted vest, it’s one of those things to carry the weight. You know they carry their emotional weight, we can carry something physical."
They’re expecting the trek to take about 36 hours, aiming to reach the National War Memorial by 12 p.m. Sunday. When asked how he makes the time and distance pass, Pace listed off a few strategies.
"Music is a big one, music or podcasts. Something to put your mind into a focus beyond the aches, the pains, how many kilometres are left. Something to harness that and then for me the big one is just let your imagination go a little bit, day dream a bit within reason. Find your happy place that works."
Pace was born in the Rockies says he’s taken on a number of challenging hikes in his day, but this weekend’s walk takes the cake. As difficult as it may be, the CAF veteran recognizes it’s not nearly as tough as what many others face every day.
"Our pain, our aches and everything that go on here, they’ll pass. Some might be quick, some might take a while, but they will end. But for these individuals, it’s a life long battle that they go through. So to put ourselves through a couple days of roughness is nothing compared to what they go through."