News Local

The spirit of Invictus

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

 

GARRISON PETAWAWA – The community joined the garrison in celebrating the spirit of Canada's wounded and injured soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen Monday formally receiving the Invictus flag as it makes its way closer to Toronto.

During a ceremony at Dundonald Hall, the flag was piped in to a round of applause as it was proudly carried by retired sergeant Daniel Graham and Sgt. Brenda McPeak. This is one of the final stops for the National Flag Tour of Invictus Games, a 37-day journey aimed at drumming up excitement for the games across Canada.

Retired master corporal Mike Trauner, formerly with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, spoke passionately of what the 2017 Invictus Games, which begin in Toronto on Sept. 23, means to the personnel who will be participating.

“It doesn't what your disability is. It doesn't matter if it is physical or mental,” said the retired non-commissioned member easily wandering around in front of the audience on two artificial legs. “We get to don the maple leaf again. We get to represent our country again.”

Trauner was injured in 2008 when a remotely detonated improvised explosive device, or IED, hit his foot patrol in the Zhari District of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The blast shot the soldier metres in the air. He had to be resuscitated twice, once at the scene of the explosion and again while on the operating table at Kandahar Air Field. The explosion robbed him of his left leg above the knee and his right leg below the knee. His left arm and hand suffered multiple fractures.

A doctor advised the soldier he could, at best, be able to walk 500 metres at a time using two canes. It was a diagnosis he refused to accept. During his rehabilitation, he drove himself to walk again. Next week, Trauner will be competing the rowing and cycling competitions at the Invictus Games.

“The Invictus Games isn't about going out there to win medals and for pride and for glory,” he explained. “Everybody still wants to do well. Everybody wants to represent their country and feel belonged and we all feel belonged with Team Canada. So we are still going to give them hell and still going there to win because it's on our home turf this time.”

In 2014, Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games as an international sporting event for injured servicemen and women. The prince, a commissioned officer with the Blues and Royals who served two combat tours in Afghanistan before leaving the British military in 2015, was inspired by the U.S. Warrior Games. He envisioned the games as using the power of adaptive sport to help wounded warriors on their journey to recovery. Last year, Trauner met Harry, who wanted to know his entire story. The young prince then personally challenged the retired infantryman to compete in Toronto. Trauner said he very proud of Team Canada's roster of 90 athletes.

“They've all worked hard and put in 110 per cent,” he said. “It doesn't matter if they are in a wheelchair, or with disabilities, physical or trauma. They gave it their best. They still represent their nation and that is what the Invictus Games are all about.”

By the time the Invictus flag reaches Toronto it will have visited 22 military bases, 15 legions and over 50 communities. Garrison commander Col. Louis Lapointe said it was an honour to receive the flag noting it is appropriate for Petawawa, a place that has seen its fair share of deployments and sacrifice from its personnel.

“Some people came back injured but they are not broken,” said Col. Lapointe. “They keep fighting everyday. They keep getting up every morning, they train hard and they overcome their challenges which is a fantastic accomplishment. We need to be uniquely proud about that.”

Sgt. McPeak said it was a great honour to have been asked to carry the flag and is looking forward to the games. She will be competing in track and field, rowing and sitting volleyball.

“It's been a long rocky road for me, training wise,” said Sgt. McPeak, one of three local athletes going from the area. “I am excited I get to compete on home soil. It's a great feeling.”

The Toronto Invictus games will feature 550 competitors, from 17 nations participating in 12 adaptive sports.

SChase@postmedia.com