Brad Locke, right, from Pierceland, Sask. spoke about how his service dog, Odin, has helped him cope with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Lt. Governor’s Gala last Saturday night in Lloydminster during Wounded Warriors Weekend. Several of the 120 guests brought service dogs as well for healing various wounds. GEOFF LEE LSS PHOTO
Wounded Warriors Weekend in Lloydminster succeeded where medications and hospital stays have failed, to make military members, veterans and first responders whole again.
The process of helping nearly 120 Canadian and U.S. Wounded Warriors heal from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) took hold during a range of local and area relaxation activities from July 27-30.
“If it got any better we’d all be in heaven, but then again, maybe we are,” said Blake Emmons, founder of Wounded Warriors Weekend about the recovery experience in Lloydminster.
“Believe me, there has been healing.”
Emmons was one of those who felt the love during the Lt. Governor’s Gala at the Wild Rose Pavilion last Saturday night.
“It’s like getting back with family, it’s like magic what is happening,” he said.
Canadian navy vet, Neil Currie from Meadow Lake, Sask. has attended all previous healing weekends in Slave Lake and Nipawin, and called the Lloydminster experience fantastic.
“The highlight of these weekends is just meeting all the Wounded Warriors that come in from all over Canada and the U.S., and some old friends with the tangible healing that takes place,” said the 75-year-old vet.
“It lets them meet and feel free to be with people of their own kind, whether it’s walking wounded with traumatic amputations, or PTSD, or burns, or whatever.
“That way, they are not singled out, they are all equal; we are all equal.”
Currie was wearing a special NATO service medal for his role with our navy during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 supporting the U.S. fleet.
“It was a little scary,” said Currie who said he did suffer a bit from PTSD after that with the threat of nuclear war being a clear and present danger at that time.
“I have had it and I sort of learned how to deal with it; I get along quite nicely now,” he said.
His wife, Paulette, who enjoyed a ladies spa that morning, said as a member of the Legion working with veterans, she knows how important the Wounded Warriors Weekend is each year.
“I can see in my own husband the benefits,” she said.
“He rests a little easier.”
Al Hemingway, District 3 Commander for Royal Canadian Legion Branch #39 in Lloydminster that led the organization of the event, said the members were honoured to host it.
“We are so honoured to have all these vets here and provide them with a way to relax and enjoy each others company,” he said.
“It’s just a venue where they can come and be comfortable with each other.”
Hemingway singled out Lloydminster Legion members Richard Dixon and Ryan Ference for their roles in scheduling activities like a visit to a ranch, a fishing trip, the gala and an outdoor concert.
“Our committee has been trying to make sure they have a very comfortable rewarding experience,” added Hemingway.
Brad Locke, an air force veteran who lives in Pierceland, Sask., credits his service dog, Odin, for saving his life while dealing with PTSD.
“He’s an absolute godsend; if my wife was here, she’d tell you the same thing,” said Locke while fighting back tears as he spoke.
“I just met the person inside that arranged for the funding for him to be trained,” he said.
“The Saskatchewan Legion picked up the funding for his training, and without that help I wouldn’t have him.”
Odin is a one-year-old pure bred German Shepherd who is being trained to work with Locke by Canadian Canine Training in Sherwood Park.
“If I am getting anxious he gets my attention onto him instead of what is triggering me,” said Locke.
“I don’t do very well in crowds, so he blocks in crowds for me.”
He said Odin, named for a god of knowledge and war, also reminds him to take his medication if he forgets.
Locke was medically discharged with PTSD after more than 20 years in the forces, including more than 10 years a military policeman.
He served in the Balkans as well as East Africa, and he did a tour in Alert in Ellesmere Island in Nunavut.
Locke was also a military plumber, gas fitter and an aircraft structures technician.
His wife was also medically discharged and works as a civilian contractor at 4 Wing Cold Lake.
She was not able to accompany him this year for the weekend of healing.
“Lloydminster has been absolutely fantastic; I can’t thank the community enough” he said.
The highlight he said was “Just getting together with everybody, the camaraderie, and just knowing that you’re not the only one out there that is broken.”