Steve Hartwig, Jason McKenzie and Scott McFarlane have taken on an amazing task. They are marching across Canada to bring awareness to all people battling post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A great deal of progress has been made in the care and awareness of PTSD. However, with the rash of PTSD suicides in recent years more support and funding is essential in preventing more unnecessary deaths. The epic March Into No Man’s Land began at the BC legislature on June 23, 2014 and will take approximately four months, ending in St Johns Newfoundland on or about September 2014. The march will consist of 32km distances walked each day, augmented with periodic short drives.
Steve Hartwig, who is marching, served with the Royal Westminster Regiment for four years where he trained as a paratrooper, infantryman and eventually peacekeeper. While peacekeeping in Croatia from 1992-1993 Cpl Hartwig witnessed atrocities that forever changed him. The father of four continues to battle with what he experienced. Since leaving the army he’s struggled with depression, anger and even suicide. Hartwig developed coping methods by continuing the rigorous physical fitness routine he relied on as a paratrooper. He now takes his battle on the road as both a personal test of his will and to conquer his PTSD.
Jason McKenzie, Hartwig’s right hand man who is also marching and driving, is a CAF veteran who served with CanBat 1 in the former Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1993. In 1994, after an honourable discharge, McKenzie was diagnosed with PTSD. As a civilian he continued to serve Canada in the Canadian Coast Guard and as a civilian admin with the RCMP. Today McKenzie runs his own construction company. He and Hartwig have been friends since their first days of basic training, through Battle School, and their UN tour. The March Into No Man’s Land is a testament of their bond.
Scott McIntyre McFarlane, who is also marching and driving, met Hartwig in 1992, during the selection phase of Operation Harmony. The last time they saw each other Harwig was medically assisting McFarlane who was burned when a fire in a burn barrel exploded and he was medivac’d out of the theatre of operations. Twenty years later they reconnected, had a conversation and started their new mission together, March Into No Man’s Land.
The men recognize there are many military personnel who are struggling with or seeking help for PTSD. Soldiers from previous conflicts are now coming forth to talk and share their stories and struggles. A recent defence committee report stated “There are, no doubt, many others who are also victims of timing and past insufficiencies.” In a recent survey, between 20-28 per cent of Afghan vets are suffering from some form of PTSD. Couple this with the fact that the Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) reports only nine per cent of Canadian Veterans are receiving post service care and we see that 19 per cent of our military veterans are not receiving the care they need. “In the past three years we have had more than 50 suicides among the military personnel directly related to PTSD. Veteran’s are suffering and without adequate resources from our government,” says Hartwig.
The March Into No Man’s Land would not be possible without the generous donations of people who care about the mental health of all Canadians. Every dollar makes a difference and pushes the Team another kilometre along the journey. You can follow the Team’s progress at www.IntoNoMansLand.com, Facebook page “Into No Man’s Land” or on Twitter @intonomansland
Please feel free to meet them along the road and encourage them on their journey.