Community & Current Events

True Patriot Love: In support of veterans

By: Jennifer Reynolds

Photography by John Hryniuk Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by John Hryniuk

Community & Current Events

True Patriot Love: In support of veterans

By: Jennifer Reynolds
On March 2, I found myself dangling from the top of an ice cliff holding onto the hand of Laureen Harper. Yes, that Laureen Harper. I probably wouldn't have died if I fell, but I could have broken some bones.

I was invited to Harrington Lake, the official country residence of the prime minister, to meet a group of Canadian veterans and corporate leaders who have spent the last few months preparing for an epic journey to the Arctic Circle. Their goal: to raise awareness of the needs of Canadian veterans and their families. The expedition is being organized by True Patriot Love, a not-for-profit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of veterans and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Mrs. Harper is honorary chair of the organization, a strong supporter of veterans and, luckily, a 50-year-old in excellent, excellent shape! She won't be going on the actual expedition, but based on our brief snowshoe hike, you can bet she'd have little trouble with it. “Who wants to climb right to the top?” she asked after leading us up two kilometres of icy hills and beautiful snow-covered vistas.

When the expedition kicks off on April 18, the 50-person crew (which includes 12 injured veterans) will fly out to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for three days of final prep. Then they'll fly to within 100 kilometres of the Magnetic North Pole. From there, they'll ski the rest of the way.

One of the participating veterans, Shauna Davies has been training for the adventure for months. It was all I could do to keep up with the 31-year-old from Clarence Creek, ON, who was pulling her two kids behind her in a sled. (During the actual expedition, she'll be dragging her gear behind her in the same manner.) Davies is a retired corporal working as a dental technician out of CFB Petawawa. Her husband, deployed in Afghanistan until 2007, returned home with severe PTSD, and now Davies wants to raise awareness of a little-discussed side of the disorder: how it affects everyone in the injured person's life, including the family.

After our two-hour cardio session, Mrs. Harper treated us all to a warm lunch of spicy chili and crusty bread. As we sat around the table chatting, she offered up several camping tips. Bring rubbing alcohol, she advised, so that you can dab it on your hairline to reduce greasiness. And don't forget the petroleum jelly—it doubles as an accelerant. If I was choosing a partner for an Arctic expedition, I know who my first choice would be!

For more stories on inspiring Canadians, check out Arlene Dickinson's tips on how to make a good idea great
                                               
This story was originally titled "Epic Journey" in the May 2014 issue.
           
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True Patriot Love: In support of veterans

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