Discovering Soldier On “I used to believe that one should only run when chased or ordered to do so,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Rhonda Crew. Through Soldier On she discovered that sports can also help keep demons at bay. Lieutenant-Colonel Crew had spent more than 30 years with the Canadian Armed Forces when past trauma began to catch up with her, taking a toll on her mental health. At the time, Crew was Chief of Nursing Services with over 700 subordinates, as well as the Queen’s Honorary Nurse; the most senior, longest serving nurse in Canada. “When you’re at the top it can be especially hard to admit that you need help, but I figured that if I could do it, it might encourage others to do the same,” Crew recalls. Through Soldier On she discovered a passion for a multitude of sports such as downhill skiing, cycling, and running. Since then, both she and her husband, retired Sergeant Duane Bryson, have participated in the Invictus Games, making them the first Canadian couple to compete. Bryson, who sustained a severe brain injury in 2009 while working as a Search and Rescue Technician, competed in the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. Two years later, Crew joined the Invictus Team 2018 as assistant co-captain, running 1500 meters on a broken foot in Sydney, Australia. “The whole stadium stood up to cheer me on. It was truly incredible,” she remembers. While competitions like Invictus or the Warrior Games receive most of the media attention, they only represent a small portion of the important work carried out by Soldier On. Since its inception in 2007, Soldier On has supported approximately 6,000 ill and injured members to overcome their physical or mental injuries through recreational activity and sport. In 2019, the program hosted more than 50 events across the country and the goal is to continue to expand the number of camps organized each year. “Whether recovering from physical or mental injury, it is so important to have a support network and something to look forward to,” says Rhonda, who encourages others to register with the program. Over the past few months, Soldier On has increased its footprint across Canada, in conjunction with Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group and Personnel Support Programs, by recruiting regional coordinators who will help create a sense of community across the nation, making it easier for members to stay in contact and support each other in between events. One newly recruited regional coordinator is retired Warrant Officer Damien Pittman, responsible for Eastern Ontario. “We want to focus particularly on reaching out to individuals who have distanced themselves from the outside world. we want to let them know that they are not alone,” he says. Before becoming regional coordinator, Pittman was Team Captain for the Warrior Games 2019. “That’s when I learned firsthand how powerful and awesome Soldier On can be. I saw some amazing transformations among my friends and fellow participants. Had it not been for Soldier On, I’m not sure where they would be today,” he says. Soldier On not only supplies members with equipment and coaches to meet their needs, but also provides them with a safe environment to challenge themselves in ways they may not have thought possible. Many ill and injured members credit Soldier On with helping them to adapt to their new normal, realize their full potential, and Soldier On in life.