Operation Pegasus Jump ‘life changing’ for vets and first responders

Operation Pegasus Jump 'life changing' for vets and first responders

Jumping out of a plane on purpose is just the kind of healing Canadian veteran Brendon McKenna was looking for to deal with his demons.

“You want to be the best infantry soldier you can be, you want to be a paratrooper,” said McKenna, the Canadian Forces veteran. “So I’m 37 now and I’m a paratrooper as of yesterday so that’s changed my life and I can carry on with a bigger smile and letting go of a lot of baggage I carried.”

This is the second year of Operation Pegasus Jump where serving and veteran Canadian Armed Forces members, first responders and their families experience skydiving for the first time, building bonds and sharing their experience of occupational stress injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Skydiving helps because it gets you out of your comfort zone it just kind of breaks down the walls and then from there the talks can kind of start happening and people reconnect and then the talks for mental health kind of start happening from there,” said Gavan Jones, one of the directors behind Operation Pegasus Jump.

“The suicide rate among veterans right now is really getting out of control and we were sitting here talking one night and we had just lost another one,” said Rob MacNeill, co-owner of Campbell River Skydive Centre and a veteran himself.

The Campbell River Skydive Centre is hosting the event and is the only one in Canada owned by military vets so they “get it” more than anyone.

“Then we started batting ideas around like how can we get people here, how can we reach people and help people and this is how it came to be,” he added.

Last year, 100 people attended and 300 attended this year including Wade and Lesia Wick.

Wade nearly lost his life in Afghanistan.

“I was blown up twice so, last one had casualties,” Widk told CHEK News. “My driver Darryl Caswell was killed and so it kind of took our crew out of commission, so ended our tour and sent home.”

PTSD reared its ugly head before he eventually found Operation Pegasus Jump.

“I came and did this and it’s pushed us even further to keep going,” Wade added.

He’s now jumped 25 times and Lesia has jumped three times. As his wife, she’s lived his pain with him along the way.

“This isn’t just for them, it’s for us. The support here for families not to be left on the sidelines was incredible,” she said.

Thursday’s skydiving ended with a Wings Ceremony and Tribute to Fallen Comrades.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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