Published in the August 10th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News
Injured soldiers ‘Soldier On’
Corporal Kurtis Gaucher lost his left leg and injured his right after an IED explosion in Afghanistan last year.
He hadn’t been able to walk for nine months, but on Monday, he was kayaking.
“I’m really comfortable in the water,” said Gaucher, who is with 1 Combat Engineer Regiment.
The 27-year-old was one of five injured soldiers taking part in the Soldier On kayaking paddle clinic at the St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club at Kirk Lake.
The program aims to improve the quality of life for injured or ill members of the Canadian Forces through recreational sports and activities.
“They might think ‘I can’t paddle, or I’m not interested in paddling’ and after awhile just trying it, starting it, they realize that they’re actually able to do it and it’s beneficial for them,” said Sebastien Perigny-Lagoie, regional fitness specialist with Soldier On.
“Without (Soldier On), it’s kind of hard for injured soldiers to get out and do these kinds of activities,” Gaucher said.
Maj. David Blackburn, 43, another kayak clinic participant, severely injured his neck and back while training with a reconnaissance battle group in 1997 before deploying to Bosnia.
When stepping out of the rolled-over armoured vehicle he was in, Blackburn fell into a valley, damaging three discs in his neck and four discs in his back.
Although he has steadily recovered over the years, Blackburn, who is now 2nd in Command with Joint Personnel Support Unit, still feels the pain of the injuries today, but sees opportunities like Soldier On as a chance to be active again.
“It’s a good opportunity to come together as a group… do something adventurous. This allows us to keep doing our thing,” he said.
This is the first kayaking Soldier On event in the area but the nationwide program, which has been running since 2006, regularly holds events across Canada including wheelchair basketball, sledge hockey, and aquatic sports.
And even though the kayak clinic was Gaucher’s first Soldier On event, he’s already making plans for his next.
“I’ll be going next year to the triathlon clinic in San Antonio, Texas, and there’s a skiing clinic they put on in B.C.,” he said.