OUT OF LEFT FIELD: So, so, so proud of Castlegar and Kate McEachern
They say to have compassion for someone, you must walk a mile in their shoes. Castlegar will go you one better. They’ll walk five kilometres in your boots, in 30+degree heat, and suffer right along beside you … and, I hope, still understand that their journey is shorter than yours, and the emotional/mental burden you’re offering to carry is too great to measure in pounds.
I have many times thought I couldn’t be prouder of our people – but this one just takes all the cakes, and eats them, too.
Standing at the weigh scales to greet former tank driver Cpl. Kate McEachern on June 30, and watching our mayor be there to greet her – and then our fire department show up in full turn-out gear (you can’t begin to imagine how agonizingly hot that stuff is until you’ve worn it, even once. It’s meant to keep the heat of fires out – so it doesn’t breathe, it doesn’t let YOUR heat out, it’s truly painful in hot weather, and it weighs about a bajillion pounds, especially with the airtank) to walk this courageous woman at least part of the way home, literally had me in tears.
They walked five kilometres in clothing/gear I couldn’t wear for five minutes. In a procession with police, fire, paramedics, coroners, military … well, pretty much everyone.
Special points to our military firefighter Bart Fyffe, in full camo with a 60-lb rucksack and headgear. And Jordan Croteau and Kara Lynn Prevails (like I didn’t see you goad everyone else on). And to our fire chief, who, as always, led the charge.
McEachern is walking across Western Canada with a 50-pound rucksack, to raise awareness about PTSD. Now, I’ve spoken to you about PTSD before, you know I have it, but I thought it would be a little ego-centric to get into details. After watching this woman, if you guys say you want details about what it feels and looks like, I’d be happy to find the courage to provide them.
Anyway, back to my people – McEachern was completely moved, too.
“The response in Castlegar was mind-blowing. That’s why I’m wearing sunglasses – I started crying at the weigh scales and haven’t stopped,” she said, hours after arriving at the fire hall. “I just couldn’t believe they were willing to do this in full turn-out gear. I come from a family of firefighters. This meant so much to me.
“This is how it needs to looks – we’re all united within the fabric of humanity.”
Bear in mind, she has already walked about 2,300 km in this heat, and no one is making her do it.
She is doing it because she believes in the notion of ‘no man (or woman) left behind’, but she keeps seeing us, as communities and a country, wantonly, unwittingly leave people behind.
She knows, probably better than anyone, that the hardest promise in the world to keep is, “I understand you have a mental illness, and I love you and support you anyway.”
What it usually looks like is, “I love you, but I don’t understand you, and I want you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get yourself right, and knock it off.” Or, in her case, ‘soldier on’.
To anyone who thinks people with PTSD aren’t TOUGH enough: You go tell Kate that, and call me first, because I’ll want to be there to take photos.
And for the people who didn’t get to be part of the procession: RCMP Const. Steve Smith is the guy who killed himself to make this happen, to bring this walk to the attention of our community. His wife worked doggedly beside him. The people who raised so much money at the jail-and-bail, cooked burgers and made bracelets and performed (more than $7,000 was raised, at last count, and more is coming in).
Saying you support something or someone is easy. Actually doing it is hard. I think Castlegar knocked this one right out of the park and then some.
I will be doing a much longer and more-involved story about PTSD and Kate, but I wanted you to see the photos right away. They literally changed my world view, and broke my heart and warmed it, all at the same time.
To Kate, you deserved every second, every dollar, every kudo and every sacrifice you got here.
To Castlegar, you deserved Kate.
I’ve just never been more proud of you all.