Veterans returning home from service often feel lonely or even isolated, according to James Cawley.
Cawley served with an infantry regiment in the Canadian Armed Forces and these days finds himself on the golf course with other veterans and serving members.
“I find that your focus has to be here as opposed to thinking about all the other things that are in your life. For 18 holes, you get to kind of shut that off and enjoy yourself and be here,” Cawley said.
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Crawley was one of the many participants at the Soldier On Atlantic Golf Invitational Wednesday at Riverside Country Club in Rothesay, N.B. Eighteen teams that included regional business leaders, public sector workers and injured veterans teed off in the charity event.
Soldier On, a Canadian Armed Forces program, helps serving members and veterans overcome their physical and mental health injuries through sports, recreational and creative activities.
“I was lucky enough to have an opportunity with Soldier On in a golf camp about five years ago, which really got me out of the house and got me connected and got me playing golf and back outside,” Cawley said.
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Since its creation in 2007, Soldier On has aided more than 10,000 people through several different activities. The number of participants has steadily grown as efforts to destigmatize injury and illness grow across the country.
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Joe Kiraly is a retired chief petty officer and the senior manager for the Soldier On Program.
“The more that injury and illness is destigmatized across Canadian culture, and these brave women and men feel all right to put up their hand for support in dealing with those injuries and illnesses that have plagued their lives, there is an increasing need for programs like Soldier On,” Kiraly said.
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The work of Soldier On received acknowledgement from the Commissionaires – an organization providing work to ex-military personnel.
“This is an organization that we’re really proud to support because our mandate is to provide employment opportunities for soldiers getting out of the Canadian Armed Forces, so helping them to adjust to their new civilian life, so this is something that dovetails very well with what we do,” said Jake Bell, chair of the board of governors for Commissionaires.
While the charity golf event is one way to raise funds and awareness, Kiraly said they strive to keep discussions around injury and illness front and centre on a regular basis.
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“To provide that direct programming, to inspire and motivate and empower those ill and injured members, but also to reach all of those thousands and tens of thousands of potential members who haven’t taken that first courageous step forward in their recoveries yet.”
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