Her name is Kate MacEachern, a 34 years old single mother from Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
In 2007, while she was a tanker with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), she was thrown from a horse during a parade practice. Unfortunately she had a serious spinal cord injury and bleeding in her brain. Eight long months in and out of hospital followed before she was getting better physically. Mentally, it was different.
About 9 months after the accident, Kate started presenting clinical symptoms of PTSD and was officially diagnosed in 2010. She denied it for 2 years, as most of us who are suffering from PTSD do, but it took a toll on her.
In 2012, then backed by her chain-of-command, Kate started a 572 kilometer walk from CFB Gagetown to her home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. 19 days later, she completed her journey. The goal of this long walk was to raise $25,000 for an organisation called Soldier On, who helps wounded soldiers. Almost unnoticed, she also broke the World Record for distance travelled in full military gear. The previous record was 385 kilometers in 23 days … She did her walk in 19 …
Even the Defence Minister, Peter MacKay was at the finish line wearing her t-shirt as she was receiving accolades and praise from him and the rest of the nation. He said:
“Your family, friends, your neighbours here, all Nova Scotians, all Canadians are so proud of your accomplishment, your compassion — your passion for your friends, your colleagues, your comrades to undertake this enormous journey on their behalf is such a living tribute to those who wore the uniform who continue to wear the uniform. As the Minister of National Defence and your local MP I am so thankful for what you have done for your community and your country. Thank you Kate.”
“My heart was exploding with pride and happiness’’ she wrote on her The Long Way Home Facebook page.
After seeing the success of her first walk, Kate decided to do another Long Way Home. Wearing a 55 pound rucksack, she would walk from the Cape Breton causeway, Nova Scotia to Ottawa, Ontario. An 1872 kilometers trek she would do to support the Military Minds organisation and to raise funds so they can continue breaking the silence.
Seeking her chain-of-command approval once again, she kind of knew she would get this answer:
“Do the walk if you like but not as a serving soldier”
She was told that no one would be able to replace her during the 45 days walk. As a corporal, she was entitled to 25 days of leave yearly and she even asked to use them all so they would only need to cover the other 20 days. But her CoC didn’t change their mind. Quite honestly, a corporal in a Regiment is not a really vital asset so I assume they gave her this answer to shut her up. I guess her CoC thought that by giving her a choice between the walk and her career she would chose the second option. That didn’t happened.
When she met Peter MacKay last year, he gave her his card and said that she could e-mail him anytime if she needed anything. With the refusal from her CoC to support her based on the fact that she would be away for 45 days, she decided to turn towards him for help. She reached out to him twenty eight times through email and phone calls but she never got anything back from him. To be quite honest, it appears that he showed up at the end of her first walk for his own publicity.
To be able to do the walk to support fellow soldiers who have any type of OSIs, she decided to leave the military, her dream job for the last 8 years. So on September 3rd, she started walking for the 2nd Long Way Home. With a RV given by the 1000islandsrv and members from Military Minds who followed her during the 45 days, she felt very well supported. Original Swat also provided her combat boots for her trek and One Shot Tactical provided her with a MultiCam rucksack she’d wear until the finish line.
About 40 km into her walk, a soldier stopped her and handed her a $1,000 cheque with the word ‘CHIMO’ – Canadian Military Engineers’ moto. This clearly demonstrate that serving soldiers and veterans were supporting her regardless of her ex-CoC decision.
“Along the way, people I met were beyond heartfelt”
On October 18th, after 45 days of walking, Kate finally reached the Royal Canadian Legion Montgomery branch on Kent Street in downtown Ottawa. A good number of supporters were present wearing Military Minds shirts to give her a warm welcome and thank her for what she’s just done.
She said it would be the last time. But is it? After a brief conversation with Kate, she told me that she is already considering another walk because of all the offers she got from sponsors. The money she could raise would benefit all the serving soldiers or veterans that are affected by PTSD and other OSIs.
This story clearly demonstrates how Canadian soldiers living with PTSD can still put themselves on the line for others. She basically gave up her career to raise awareness and help soldiers in need. While the ‘’older’’ generation of soldiers might be against these types of activities and advocating to suffer in silence like any good warrior would do, Kate is one of the greatest example of what brotherhood is all about: sacrificing ourselves for the greater cause. This is, in my opinion, the true definition of being a true hero.