Paul Nichols and family In British Columbia with the Rocky Mountains in the background prior to the ride across the country. The ride will be arriving in Ontario in late july or early August

The group in western Canada with the Rocky Mountains in the background prior to the ride across the country. Lindsay Chung (Rider Coordinator) Paul Nichols Kirsten Nichols (Horse Manager) Jerry Liem (Volunteer Operations Manager) Terry Nichols (Therapeutic Riding Instructor) Cathleen McMahon (Tour and Event Manager).The ride will be arriving in Ontario in late july or early August.
Photo Credit: Rob Stratton images

Rebroadcast: Cross-Canada ride for veterans and awareness.

For a former Canadian soldier, for Paul Nichols it was a bit difficult to transition from the order and discipline of military life, back to life as a civilian, let alone forget the adrenalin, danger and fears of active combat.

In addition, infantry veteran Nichols says, when people think of veterans, they think of the now very old men, the few WW2 and Korea vets still alive, and not so much about veterans of today.

Listen
WWII veteran Paul Gorniak, age 93, came out to honour and support fellow veteran Paul Nichols as the group rode through Montmartre, Sask.
WWII veteran Paul Gorniak, age 93, came out to honour and support fellow veteran Paul Nichols as the group rode through Montmartre, Sask. © C.McMahon

But as he says, there have been three generations of military personnel since the Second World War and Korea, often serving for lengthy periods away from home in peacekeeping, disaster aid, the deadly Afghan war and Bosnian conflicts and others.

He says many of today’s vets are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder or just having transition difficulties to civilian life and feel forgotten, unrecognized, even disrespected.

His own personal turmoil changed when a woman in a Vancouver store recognized the military crest on piece of clothing and began to recount how her life had been saved by Canadian soldiers during the Bosnian conflict, a place where he had served a six month tour.

Riders and a support vehicle travel past a grain elevator on the Canadian prairies.
(L-R) Jeff Austin (a veteran and very green rider from Airdrie, AB) Terry Nichols (along to keep the new rider safe) and Paul Nichols along with a support vehicle travel past a grain elevatoron the Canadian prairies. © communitiesforveterans.ca

She told him how they were starving and living in constant fear from snipers when Canadians broke the siege and got her out.” Nichols says by the time she had finished, she was in tears, he was in tears, and others in the line were also wiping their eyes.

He says, that’s when he felt that the what the military,and himself, had done was making a difference “and there was power in that story.”

This led to the idea to take that story, his own and let others tell their stories of the Canadian Forces, across Canada.

It was therefore to help all veterans and to remind Canadians of the country’s contemporary veterans, that he embarked upon a cross Canada journey on horseback.

Westerner Park, Red Deer Saskatchewan. Nichols wife. Terry, is a riding instructor, here coaching a veteran. The Nichols often work with veterans who suffer from PTSD or simply have difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life. They say horses are particularly sensitive to human emotions and working with horses helps the veterans to understand how their emotions affect others and how they can learn to control their emotions.
Westerner Park, Red Deer Saskatchewan. Nichols wife. Terry, is a riding instructor, here coaching a veteran. The Nichols often work with veterans who suffer from PTSD or simply have difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life. They say horses are particularly sensitive to human emotions and working with horses helps the veterans to understand how their emotions affect others and how they can learn to control their emotions. © Lindsay Chung

He left his ranch Quesnel, British Columbia, in the hands of a daughter, and with wife and another daughter in a support vehicle, the 46-year-old and string of horses, has been taking that message to Canadians across the country at a rate of about 35 kilometres a day.

Veterans are invited to ride along on one the horses, and the message of his personal experience, and those of other veterans is given at various gatherings along the way. He says he expects that several hundred veterans will have ridden alongside for a little ways by the time the trip ends in St John’s Newfoundland.

I reached him by mobile phone in Winnipeg Manitoba

Note: such an effort requires a great deal of funding and anyone wishing to contacto them or help out can do so via the “communities for veterans“ website. You can also follow the riders on their trip via this the CVF site.

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3 comments on “Rebroadcast: Cross-Canada ride for veterans and awareness.
  1. Vic Craft says:

    There I an organization in Alberta called Can Praxis that deals with veterans with PTSD. They have been very successful in treating their clients and are sponsored by Wounded Warriors Canada.

  2. Jerry Kovacs says:

    What day do you expect to be in Ottawa? And where will you go in Ottawa?

    Will you go to the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill?

    Will you lay a wreath at the National War Memorial?

    Will you ride to Beechwood National Military Cemetery?

    Please let me know if I can help out with any events in Ottawa and generate some press.