The Third Annual Wounded Warrior Weekend took place August 2 to 4 in Slave Lake, Alberta.
“We were blessed with a town that totally understood us as a group. Slave Lake understands Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are known as ‘the town that burnt down’,” explained Blake Emmons, organizer and founder of the event. “This is a town that gave back right from the start. We pulled in with five buses full of vets and their families from Canada, US, Australia, the UK and 300 motorcycles, and there were 1500 to 2000 people lining the streets to welcome us. A lot of the vets told me coming into Slave Lake was the welcome home they hadn’t received before.”
The Wounded Warrior Weekend started in Nipawin, Saskatchewan as place for veterans with injuries, PTSD, or mental health issues, and their families to gather together to heal and help each other. The weekend is a time to tell stories, to laugh, to cry and connect with others who understand what you’ve seen and what you’re going through. This year there was good food, a fishing competition, and stage comedy to name a few of the activities.
“We want to show we care. We were also able to give away a couple of Service Dogs to two veterans who didn’t know they were getting the dogs. It was awesome. They had applied for the dogs. We spoke to their families and did the interviews in secret. Then surprised them. The dogs were presented by a vet who has his own Service Dog. Without that dog he couldn’t leave his house. And there he was in front of hundreds of people. There wasn’t a dry eye.”
Airfare and accommodations are provided by donations to Wounded Warrior Weekend (of no direct association with Wounded Warrior’s Canada). The weekend was rustic and laid back.
“So many people and companies contributed to the success of the event. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch #110 hosted us. The local Fish and Wildlife folks threw a fish fry for everyone. A motorcycle club held a pig roast. Westjet accommodated when participants cancelled then rebooked, then cancelled and rebooked again. Such is the way PTSD goes. You have good days and bad days. Westjet understood.”
“You know, there are so many stories I could tell you about connections people made, and lives that were healed a little or a lot from the weekend of camaraderie. One that stands out in particular happened to me. When we were saying good-bye to everyone I stood in front of the crowd and reminded them we are all a family and we need to stay in touch with each other once we go our separate ways. I offered the example of a veteran who reached out on a Facebook Page. Within hours someone was standing on that person’s doorstep banging on their door offering the help and support they needed in that moment. I was one of the multiple connections made across the country that made that happen,” says Emmons. The story did not end there. “Later that day a veteran approached me and told me they were the soldier who posted that desperate plea for help on Facebook. I didn’t know they were there. We had never met before. We just hugged and cried. I know that vet will be with us for our Fourth Annual Wounded Warrior Weekend next year.”
Please visit: www.woundedwarriorsweekend.org