In 2012, Kate MacEachern, then a Corporal in Armoured Corps was on medical leave due to a serious injury and forgot to call her grandmother, in fact, she forgot for several days. The response MacEachern received from her grandmother when she finally called was this:
“I was starting to think you put on those army boots and walked clear across the world to save someone.”
Those words, as innocuous as they appeared at the time, inspired The Long Way Home, Corporal MacEachern’s self-assigned mission to raise awareness of the burden and stigma endured by those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
Kate is no stranger to those struggles.
As a member of the mounted troop in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment, she suffered life-threatening injuries —not only was the road to physical recovery long, arduous and fraught with setbacks, but she continued and continues to this day to suffer from PTSD.
“When I got off the phone with my Nanny, something clicked — the thoughts I had about desperately wanting to help others struggling with injuries, plus the comment about walking across the world in my army boots sparked something profound in me — I wondered, could she be onto something?” said MacEachern.
The advent of The Long Way Home was born in 2012, as MacEachern began a 19-day walk, traversing a trail spanning 576 kilometres from Gagetown, NB to Antigonish, NS. In 2012, after obtaining a medical release from the military, Kate walked a staggering 1876 kilometres from Cape Breton, NS, to Ottawa, ON.
Success from the careful navigation of her prior strenuous and resourceful journeys, led MacEachern to a repeat walk that started on May 1st, 2015. Bravely shouldering her bag, MacEachern packed up her rucksack and then hit the road again in an attempt to raise awareness for the condition.
“It’s difficult for people to understand the nature of invisible injuries like PTSD — the ruck symbolizes the weight carried by those who battle it,” she said.
This will be her longest and hardest trek.
MacEachern began her westward journey after a reception at Government House with the Honourable Vaughn Solomon Schofield, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and the journey will come to end in Chilliwack during the B.C. for the Wounded Warriors Weekend on July 24th.
“Many don’t realize the emotion that goes into these marches – out on the road, there is a constant struggle to stay focused and not let emotion take over, it’s about having a strong mind, strong body connection. It’s a lonely journey in many ways, physically and psychologically,” said MacEachern.
The Long Way Home is coming to Hope on July 22nd to present funds at the Canadian Legion Hall. All proceeds will be donated to PTSD and to facilitate the pairing of service dogs with those surviving PTSD through an organization called Paws for veterans.
“Having an animal gives people a feeling of responsibility and a reason to get out of bed in the morning — in my opinion, no one should live alone,” said Branch No 228 Legion member Ian Williams.
Williams told The Hope Standard that PTSD is starting to get the attention it deserves, as many veterans come home suffering from various degrees of the debilitating psychological illness, which is caused from distressing trauma sustained on duty.
“They didn’t understand what it was three decades ago, but now it’s being recognized as a legitimate illness,” he said. “It’s prevalent, very prevalent.”
What used to be treated with a “suck it up” attitude is now being acknowledged for its severity and its relevance to a new generation of sufferer’s — people coming out of places like Afghanistan.
The Royal Canadian Legion Branch No 228 and the District of Hope first responders wish to invite the citizens of Hope to come out on July 22nd at 5 p.m. to line Wallace Street from 6th Ave to 3rd Ave to greet Kate MacEachern, as she ends her walk in the name of PTSD.
For more infromation or to donate please visit Http://www.thelongwayhome.ca, or call Renee Charbonneau at 780-402-8892 firstname.lastname@example.org.