Soldier On supports service personnel and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces overcome their physical or mental illness or injury through physical activity and sport.
“Our mandate,” says Soldier On communications officer Joe Kiraly, “is to inspire, empower and enable ill and injured members and veterans to reconnect to sport, and use that, and those experiences, in their recovery.”
Operations Warrant Officer Michael Adams was injured in Afghanistan in 2006.
“I’m currently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and currently being medically looked at for a dissociate disorder which is [possibly caused by] mefloquine poisoning.
“I found out about Soldier On through the Toronto Invictus games just a couple of years ago, so now I’m here. This is my first event with Soldier On.”
Adams is glad he signed up for the program.
“It’s been nothing but uplifting, and a positive experience. Most of us injured soldiers, currently serving or retired veterans, the biggest things that we get being injured is a sense of belonging that we lose.
“It’s that sense of belonging, being back, part of a group. It’s helped out immensely — mentally with the therapies, and the process of healing, and getting past, and moving on with our lives.”
Retired Corporal Tanner Wilson concurs.
“It’s given me a means to take golf seriously as a form of treatment for myself. It’s kind of ironic, because the first time I came out and golfed post injury, and [coping with] post traumatic stress disorder, I looked a golf and said ‘wow, this is not the sport for me,
“But once I broke it down into a process of learning, it’s taught me so much about how to attack my injuries. Golf is an impossible game when you first start trying to hit a little white ball, much like trying to suffer with PTSD in the world we live in today, so it kind of started me into a lot of goal planning. Golf takes so much practice, and maybe my mental health does too” says Wilson.
Jeff Palmer is the General Manager of Highland Pacific Golf. That course was one of four in Victoria that donated tee times and golf pros to Soldier On for clinics from April 2 to 5.
“I think it’s amazing,” says Palmer. “I mean, golf as therapy is pretty special — and to be able to give back in this way, and help the armed forces, and give back to them, is great.”
Golf is just one of the dozens of sports offered by Soldier On. The organization holds anywhere from 30 up to 50 camps each year.
“We want to maximize the opportunities that men and women, serving or retired, dealing with illness or injuries, can have to find a sport that resonates with them,” says Kiraly.
Since it began in 2007, Soldier On has connected more than 3500 ill and injured members to sport, and to each other.