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Veteran’s struggles with PTSD leads to motorcycle journey across Canada
When Mike Terry retired from the Canadian Armed Forces this spring, he still had a strong passion to serve his fellow soldiers but he had no idea that it would lead him so far.
Terry, who served three tours of duty is one of the many thousands of military veterans who struggle with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
He was diagnosed with the condition 17 years ago and it’s cost him dearly since that time.
“Three failed marriages, four failed serious relationships, estranged from my kids, estranged from my family. Just didn’t know how to connect with my family. I struggled with addictions.”
Terry says that he had a method of fighting PTSD, but it only ended up minimizing and hiding the negative effects, a concept that can be deadly to sufferers.
“I think a lot of us do that and one of the biggest struggles is when you minimize it, and hide it for so long, it’s hard to be open about it when you really need help. It becomes habit, it becomes normal just to internalize it.”
It was only when he was released from service in April that he felt the PTSD begin to show its true danger.
“I moved to a small town where I didn’t know anybody and I’m by myself getting ready to go to school in the fall. I immediately recognized that things had the potential to turn very bad.”
Instead of getting to that point, Terry pledged that he would make a change for the better and do all he can to share the story of his struggle with all Canadians.
To do that, he came up with the idea of riding a motorcycle all the way across Canada, an initiative that he’s dubbed Dispatches Rides for Veterans.
He says that the motorcycle trip gives him the opportunity to connect with people and give him a sense of purpose that he’s lacked ever since he retired.
“It’s given me purpose, it’s given me a passion to follow and it’s given me a challenge. I think more importantly, after 23 years of serving, I’m not done serving so this was an opportunity to serve my community as well.”
Now, while on his trip through Calgary, Terry has been able to reconnect with an old friend from his hometown in Nova Scotia.
Jonathan Stoddart, a Calgary musician, says Terry’s new mission is an admirable one.
“I think he’s very brave to be making it happen. He could have kept this to himself or a close confidant, instead he took that plunge and he’s sharing it with whoever will listen. That’s a good thing I think.”
He’s also taken the opportunity to hold an informal benefit concert for him at the Palomino in Calgary.
“I knew that it was going to give us an opportunity to reconnect and to show him what I’ve been up to and just welcome him to Calgary and make him a few bucks more.”
Terry says that the most powerful thing he’s come across while on his journey speaking with other veterans is the commonalities between everyone’s stories.
“I think the biggest thing that’s struck me as I talk to people is that I hear the same story over and over, in terms of struggles.”
He hopes that by sharing his story, he will do his part to encourage healing in everyone who needs it,
Terry plans to finish his trip in Simcoe, Ontario by September 1.
(With files from Stephanie Wiebe)