By Greg Wiseman/Nipawin Journal
Updated 1 minute ago
Almost everyone, it seems, who took part in the Wounded Warriors Weekend in Nipawin has had their lives changed.
From the more than 110 wounded veterans who converged on the community last weekend to the volunteers that helped run the event to the townspeople themselves, everyone seems to have had a positive experience at the event, the first of its kind held for veterans.
â€œSome of the volunteers here have come up and said this has changed my life,â€ said Blake Emmons, one of the organizers of the wounded Warriors Weekend.
â€œI listened to a guy that said he came back form Afghanistan and in two days was home in Toronto, the guy teared up and he said this is my welcome home,â€ Emmons said the volunteer relayed to him.
â€œWe have been getting a lot of experiences like that.â€
The event featured fishing and outdoor fun as well as musical and other performances from a long list entertainers.
It was thought up as a way to help veterans from both the United States and Canada move forward in dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Emmons admits that a weekend event is not going to cure people of the disorder, but it goes a long way in helping.
â€œAll we were hoping for was some of these young guys to walk away from here saying its okay to be me,â€ Emmons said.
Captain Wayne Johnson, the founder of Wounded Warriors who also suffers from PTSD, said there has been a lot of advancements made by many of the participants at the event.
â€œI have seen some things, at Jim Schutteâ€™s cabin, there were a lot of guys, music is a powerful thing it brings out the soul and some guys bared their souls,â€ he explained.
â€œA good friend of mine was shot seven times on New Years Eve 1992, and he carried the scars. He had a pretty good cry. He said this morning thank you I needed that cry,â€ Johnson said.
Out on the river Johnson said a pair of bald eagles were flying around. Seeing those birds really helped a lot of veterans with their disorder.
â€œWe have soldiers that have had their flesh torn from them and we have soldiers that have had their soul torn from them. We know how to repair flesh and sometimes we canâ€™t but it is a real mystery to repair souls,â€ Johnson said.
He added that there have been major advancements in treating mental illnesses in the past 50 years, but there is still a long way to go.
â€œTo be clear the Canadian Forces has done some great work and we can always do better. I think the message is that to all Canadians is letâ€™s start talking about mental health and lets be serious about it.â€
He said there is no doubt that physical health affects families, but added mental health also affects families and all other kinds of relationships.
â€œWe have a young guy here with his son, who caught one of the big fish, and when you see a father and son bonding that is something that is pretty powerful.â€
Seeing the event materialize and evolve was something very rewarding for Emmons who called it a â€œdream come true.â€
â€œI visualized it, but the wonderful ting is I didnâ€™t have to convince too many people to help. I never got a negative from anyone,â€ he said.
He recalled one business owner who agreed to support the event on the condition that nobody know about his assistance.
â€œI go to one guy, he said Blake this is great and I will help out, but you canâ€™t tell anyone, because everyone will want the same treatment. This isnâ€™t like supporting the hockey team, it is not even like junior diabetes, he said,â€ Emmons recalled.
â€œHe said to me, â€˜everything I have, and what my father had before me is because of people like this.â€™â€
It is those people, the ones that supported the event in any way shape or form, that Emmons is thankful to.
How to say thank you to such a large group for such a wonderful event is something he will wrestle with for a while.
â€œPerhaps all those that were physically involved with us here they can gives themselves a hug for a job well done because there is no letter in the world that I cold write to express my gratitude,â€ Emmons said.
He added that everyone who contributed should be happy with how the event went.
â€œEvery one of the individuals that donated $5 or $10 or whatever should take it very personally, they are responsible and accountable for what we did here this weekend,â€ Emmons said.
â€œIt is not the big guy that gave us $5,000, although it helped. It is everybody gave to the best of their ability and for their own personal reasons and I wish they could accept all the accolades that have been bestowed on me.â€
Johnson felt the same way.
â€œI am humbled. This little community, I Googled it when Blake and I first talked and I am humbled. It is incredible people. This is a province that for sure has led the way, That Cree saying where we lead others follow, it is true,â€ Johnson said.
He said as a country on the military side more like the Wounded Warriors Weekend needs to be done.
â€œThere is more to mental health than pills and chats. We have to live too and I think what this is about is getting out and living, breathing in the fresh air socializing with everyone,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI went into a dry cleaner to get something done and they said you are with the wounded warriors, no charge. That would never happen Toronto. It is genuine you guys are the real deal.â€
Being in Nipawin for the weekend has done a lot for a great many veterans.
â€œTheir mental health issues didnâ€™t go away, but many of these fellows havenâ€™t had back to back good days and I would say we have hade some back to back good days from the 23rd to 27th. After the 27th that okay but they will always have the memory of Nipawin.â€