The Battlefords and area once again showed strong support for Wounded Warriors.
The fifth annual fundraiser to support Wounded Warriors Weekend took place Friday night at the Don Ross Centre in North Battleford.
Proceeds go towards supporting Wounded Warriors Weekend, which is directed to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wounded Warriors Weekend has been spearheaded by country music artist and veteran Blake Emmons, who himself suffers from PTSD.
He said the weekend is designed so those PTSD sufferers can relax and enjoy outdoor activities and socialize with other “wounded warriors” in a stress-free and non-judgmental environment.
“We pretend to golf, we pretend to fish, but more than anything we get together and learn that we are not alone, and it’s OK to not be OK,” said Emmons.
PTSD is the unseen condition that results from exposure to traumatic events, such as those experienced by those serving in the military in dangerous or combat situations. The weekend event has since expanded to include police, first responders and others also suffering the affliction.
Emmons says Wounded Warriors Weekend has been a success story, providing hope and a reason to live for those impacted.
“I can name you 26 who are above ground because of [Wounded Warriors Weekend],” said Emmons.
Emmons also pointed to the awareness of the issue in Saskatchewan.
“Our people in the province of Saskatchewan know more about post-traumatic stress than any province in Canada, and that I’m very proud of.”
He continues to be impressed by the support in North Battleford. On a scale of one to 10, North Battleford is “a 15,” Emmons said.
He pointed to the massive volunteer effort to put on the annual Wounded Warriors fundraiser. B&D Meats provided the catering, and entertainment for this year’s event was supplied by Donny Parenteau, the Saskatchewan country music singer-songwriter, and his band.
A major highlight came when Emmons accepted a cheque from Randy Schwartz, branch manager of Brandt Tractor, for $2,500.
It was also confirmed by organizers there was another donation made of $10,000 that was presented anonymously.
The Wounded Warriors Weekend Foundation also shared exciting plans for a more permanent initiative. Emmons said final details are being worked out for “Wounded Warriors Weekend Presents Camp Independence.”
The intention is to set up a location at Tobin Lake where veterans, first responders, police and others with post-traumatic stress can come for a week with their families.
The plan is to have equine training, service dog training and also exposure to fishing and golfing.
“It’s a place where they can know that they’re not alone, and help them get back into the workforce or get back into the world, and help them know it’s OK to not be OK,” Emmons said.
While this initiative is not yet officially confirmed, it is expected to be finalized in the next couple of weeks. Emmons said the plan would be to start with two weeks of Camp Independence and later expand it to four weeks, and then go from there.
Emmons also announced plans for WIN — Warriors International Network Radio, which would provide talk and country music for and about wounded warriors.
This is all in addition to Wounded Warriors Weekend, which will continue as usual. The 2018 event was held in Slave Lake, Alta. and another one will be held in the summer of 2019.
A venue has not been finalized, but Emmons said the locations have been narrowed down to either Newfoundland or Meadow Lake. A final decision is expected later on in the month.
As for the North Battleford fundraiser, this was its fifth year and saw strong attendance from veterans and supporters, including about 26 wounded warriors.
Among those in attendance was Kevin Nanson, retired Canadian Army sergeant who was deployed in Afghanistan and who was paralyzed by a roadside bomb in April 2008.
“We basically loaded up the truck and trailer and headed up to Nipawin, Saskatchewan,” said Nanson, about the first Wounded Warriors event. He has been back for all but one of the others and Emmons said it “changed his life. Look at him. He’s an Invictus medal winner.”
Nanson called Wounded Warriors Weekend a great cause, and noted the impact on those attending.
“It might be a feat to get them out of bed in the morning. But now these people are feeling comfortable enough that they go out, they’re participating in the activities, they’re laughing, they’re smiling, they’re talking with people, which for some people they never do. It’s a huge impact on these guys’ lives because you see the stress melt away from them.”
The fundraiser also provided an opportunity to pay tribute to those veterans in attendance who had served the country in various capacities.
One veteran in attendance was Ruth Bond-Martinson, 94 years old, who served as a cook in the navy during the Second World War.
“When I joined they said ‘we need cooks’ and put me in a galley, and trained me under some other trained cooks,” Bond-Martinson said.
The highlight for her was being at Halifax harbour when the war ended, with horns honking and lots of cheering. “I’ll never forget that high of victory,” she said.
Bond-Martinson was in North Battleford to represent Maple Leaf Unit -ANAVETS Saskatoon at the Wounded Warriors fundraiser. She acknowledged the importance of lending support to fellow veterans.
“The fellowship you carry with you all of your life,” said Bond-Martinson. “My friends were from all over Canada. Today, I can go anywhere and find one of our former fellow veterans to renew our antics that we shared in the military.”