Years following his service with the Canadian Forces as a reservist in Calgary and as a soldier in Bosnia during the Balkans conflict, Paul Nichols was faced with someone who felt the impact of his — and his fellow troops’ — effort overseas.
Nichols, from Quesnel in B.C.’s interior, says he was in a shop in Vancouver when the woman who worked there recognized the regimental insignia on his jacket. She shared her story of how Canadian soldiers essentially saved her.
“It was a real turning point in my life,” Nichols said. “It was a part of my own story.”
It’s his and other veteran’s stories that Nichols hopes to share with communities across Canada. He and his wife Terry host a ride across the nation. They and eight horses will meet up with approximately 700 veterans and ride in stages from community to community. Terry, a therapeutic riding instructor, will give lessons to people who need them. With her OK, Paul said the groups will ride for as long as they are comfortable.
Paul said soldiers often have difficulty when they come home and return to civilian life. In his own case, he was far from support services and there were very few other soldiers living in his community.
“I think (soldiers) struggle a bit in this transition,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to find support and good friends.”
He said veterans, young and old, have stories and he hopes this cross-country ride will enable them to share their experiences, issues and struggles — and raise awareness that there are men and women who have served their country in almost every small town or large city in Canada. He said he hopes to re-define what people think makes up a veteran in this country.
The couple are in Central Saanich April 12 at 9 a.m. at the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association on Veyaness Road. There will be a pancake breakfast fundraiser.
They will be at Hatley Castle that evening for another fundraiser, before officially starting the ride April 13 at noon at the legislature.
To learn more about the Veterans Foundation Ride Across Canada, visit communitiesforveterans.com.