SPRINGHILL – Picture yourself wearing thick, heavy boots. A heavy rucksack is strapped to your back and the only thing you have to do is walk.
Walk forward. Day after day.
© Christopher Gooding photo
After a night’s rest in Springhill, Kate MacEachern was ready to hit the road and move the Long Way Home campaign closer to its Ottawa-destination. MacEachern is doing the walk to raise money and awareness for Military Minds, an organization dedicated to helping those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s an image that can play on the mind, but it doesn’t compare to the stress soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] and one Canadian soldier called on the former mining town of Springhill to share the message.
After an eight-year career with the military, Kate McEachern wanted to do something to raise awareness of soldiers suffering with PTSD. She took on her first walk last year, Soldier On, trekking from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick to her home in Antigonish.
“This year I wanted to focus more on the mental health side, emotional injuries,” MacEachern said.” I’m doing this with Military Minds. They, in the thick of it, facilitate help for the men and women who need it.”
On the back of her support-vehicle, MacEachern records the distance she’s accomplished and this year poses a new challenge to her: the numbers are adding up instead of rolling off. She started her 45-day walk – The Long Way Home – one-week ago at the Canso Causeway and her final destination this year is Ottawa and there will be many side communities off the TransCanada highway she hopes to reach and raise awareness for Military Minds and PTSD.
“For me, Ottawa is the height of what we think of when it comes to the military. Last year, because I was walking from CFB Gagetown to my hometown, I wanted something bigger.”
Last year’s walk drew accolades and praise from across the nation, including then-Minister of Defense Peter McKay. She walked more than 500 km and raised more than $20,000 but this year’s walk however, was rife with controversy before she even started. In July, MacEachern was denied leave by the Dept. of National Defense to take on this year’s walk, prompting her to leave the military to pursue her goal.
If anything, it’s been an uphill battle at times, and Springhill was no different until she got closer late Tuesday night. While the community is reputed for its incline, the township spared no expense greeting her and applauding her challenge. The Springhill Volunteer Fire Department sent one of its trucks to escort her walk into the community, where the Springhill Police joined the motorcade and blasted its sirens to let the town know of her arrival. Town folk came out to learn about her campaign and wish her well.
“My heart was exploding with pride and happiness,” she wrote of the experience on the Long Way Home page found on Facebook.
Today, MacEachern is arriving in Amherst, where she will take a short rest before heading to the border. She’s set her sights on crossing the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia Border at dusk, for personal reasons and metaphorical.
“Last year, when I crossed the Nova Scotia border it was an awesome feeling, I was almost home,” MacEachern said. “This year, there’s no turning back from there.”
Online, learn more about Military Minds at http://militarymindsassociation.com.
On Facebook, keep track of MacEachern’s travels by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Thelongwayhomemm.