On the Labour Day long weekend, 70 alumni from 2 Field Ambulance gathered together for an emotional, but a much-needed reunion.
The event was organized single-handily by 2 Field Ambulance former member Derrick Nearing.
Nearing created a group on Facebook for alumni five years ago on the 100th anniversary of 2 Field Am. The goal was to create a community where people could connect and share online and, when ready, meet together and be surrounded by familiar faces.
The group grew over time, and currently, more than 500 members have joined.
Nearing then decided to hold a reunion event for Aug. 31 specifically aimed for those who served in Rwanda.
“It was just to get people together, let people heal, share stories. And to check on people and see if everyone is okay and if they need help,” said Nearing.
Nearing, who served on Operation PASSAGE in Rwanda, knows personally the toll the Rwanda tour took on many Canadians who served there. Many soldiers returned home with PTSD, and some, sadly, have even taken their lives.
The reunion was an opportunity for members to unlock the emotions many have stored away for decades.
“It was very emotional for some people,” commented Nearing.
The weekend started off with lunch at the golf course in Petawawa, and many took the opportunity to visit CFB Petawawa. On Saturday, a meet and greet event was held in the evening where individuals were able to mingle.
Former 2 Field Am members came from all across the country to attend the reunion.
According to Nearing several members, faced with mental health challenges, built up the courage to attend the event.
“That’s the power of coming together. You come together, you validate your experiences, you talk about it….and you realize you’re not alone,” commented Nearing.
Reunions such as these are especially important, says Nearing, since after Rwanda many members came back and dispersed and even went on to serve on other tours. These members then never had a proper chance to process any negative emotions, according to Nearing.
“They realize ‘I’m not crazy, I have feelings, and so does everybody else in that room,’” said Nearing.
The weekend was not only therapeutic for former 2 Field Am members, but also for spouses and family members, because they had a chance to hear firsthand everything their loved ones went through while deployed.
“Part of them can say okay now I understand all those years and why they had such a hard time,” said Nearing.
For more information on the 2 Field Ambulance Alumni group, visit their Facebook page here.