Ward retired from the Canadian army in 2017, after seven tours and 37 years of service.
Ward tells his own story. He is open, honest. As with most combat veterans, his tale is heroic and heartbreaking. For those of us who have never served or have not had someone close to us serve, it is sometimes hard to fully understand. As you read about Ward’s experiences, I challege you to place yourself in his shoes, to empathize with a combat veteran’s situation.
I have been deployed seven times. Three were United Nations peacekeeping missions and four were NATO missions. The rules of engagement for the peacekeeping missions in Cyprus and Croatia were very strict and, at times, confusing. As a Section leader on both tours, it was demanding. But also a good learning experience. The first tour, Cyprus, was not overly dangerous as it had been quiet there for some time. Croatia was more active with mortars and small arms fire directed at us. Although these peacekeeping missions were not as outright dangerous, what hit me the hardest was traveling through villages that had been ethnically cleansed. There was still food on tables, but no sign of people anywhere. Fields were covered with slaughtered pets and livestock. The images stick with me. It is something my mind’s eye often pulls into focus, as much as I would like to forget.
My other tours were in Bosnia, Afghanistan (3 times) and, finally, Israel. As an Infantry Warrant Officer in Afghanistan I did some special training to become part of a counter IED team that included an EOD team – that put us up close and personal with really big bombs. Our job was to detect and exploit IEDs in order to gather information about trends, signatures of the bomb makers, and any other information we could find. We ran from dawn to dusk, constantly. The effects of the explosions and the relentless schedule left a mark on me in ways I still cannot fully comprehend.
I believe the first rumblings I had that these experiences were affecting me started subtly in Croatia. Then, after Afghanistan, it took ahold of me. But I was too proud to admit it. I just soldiered on. It was all I knew to do.
One more short tour in Israel to make it through before retirement. It was a different type of deployment: no weapons, no uniforms. Just a go bag. We knew we were being watched everywhere we went, by both the Israelis and HAMAS.
When I returned home I knew there was something seriously wrong with my state of mind. I withdrew from activities and eventually just stopped leaving the sanctuary of my home. I could only handle the company of myself and my dogs. I was wired too tightly to be around others.
I spent two years isolated from the world. It took me that long to realize I needed help.
I was diagnosed with severe PTSD. I began therapy. Recently I attended some group courses and seminars with other veterans. I am beginning to slowly start socializing again and now have a small group of friends. But I still struggle with going outside my circle of comfort. It is still hard to accept some aspects of my experiences and the mark they left on me, but at least I now know how to approach it.
I believe Veterans on the Camino is a step forward in my recovery and I am so thankful for being selected for this opportunity.
8 thoughts on “Meet Ward”
So proud of you Ward for serving your country, admitting you have a problem and getting the help you need. Very, very proud of you for taking on the Camino de Santiago Trek. Lots of love from your sister. Love you Ward.
Buen Camino Ward
Ward I am proud of you my friend. You have been in my life since I was 12. We been throught some tough times over the years but we worked thought it and still in each other lives. Your right when you said it started in Croatia, when you came home we notice, but as a kids we wanted to help but didnt know how and you being you lol Stubborn never notice yourself. After so many tours and losses, I’m glad to see you get help and have the support you need my friend. Remember one thing my friend your not just my friend your my step dad and father to my sisters. We love ya.
Ward I was drawn to read your story because of a post from a dear sorority sister Julie Ellis. I want to say that although many don’t understand the why or how it should not matter. All that matters is it has affected you and those close to you. The least I can do is say I will keep you in my prayers and I believe that because you asked you will receive the peace and blessings you so well deserve. Thank you so much for your service. May you find the peace you need to continue on and i pray that your story may help spmeone else in need to come forward and ask for the same support
Julena Edwards RN
Papa Ward, I am very proud of you. And to have you like a second father. Thank you for all you do and have done. Stay focused, positive and keep smiling.. we are all here for you and will continue to be. Love you and you will do great:)
Ward so proud to call you my friend. I cant thank you enough for the service you have done for our country🇨🇦.stay strong my friend and we are all here for you .
Hey Ward! I’ll miss you Friday nights at darts but I know this is something you need to do! Stay strong and stay focused! We’ll be here when you get back! Take care!
Doyle and Kim
Wishing you all the very best on this upcoming ‘journey of Hope and Recovery Ward.. Susan moris.(ADMIN..Australian Pilgrims on the Camino and Beyond.