Left: 1st Nations Veteran Peacekeeper Trooper First Class Chekotah Bronson with Air Force veteran Blake Emmons, Founder and Director of the Wounded Warriors Weekend. Bronson said he used to live in Morinville and attend school here. – Lucie Roy photo
by Lucie Roy
More than 175 veterans, caregivers and first responders from Canada, the United States, Australia, and England, arrived at the Edmonton International Airport on five different flights Friday. The group were in Alberta for the Wounded Warriors Weekend, seeking and giving support for those facing the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
From the airport the group set out for Slave Lake travelling the Heroes Highway (Highways 2, 19, 60, 16A, Yellowhead and 44 North) The cavalcade of five buses, vans, cars, and motorcycles was escorted by police and passed through Devon, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Westlock en route to Slave Lake. In Westlock more than 100 bikers from motorcycle clubs across the province and five other provinces joined the group.
The group made their way through Sturgeon County on Highway 44. At Riviére Qui Barre they had people waiting for them along the road and further down the highway, Busby and Pickardville firefighters parked their fire trucks along the highway to welcome them. Lt. Governor of Alberta Donald S. Ethell and Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Vaughn S. Schofield were both in Slave Lake on the weekend to show their support to the veterans in person.
Blake Emmons, Founder and Director of the Wounded Warriors Weekend, said this is the third year for the Wounded Warriors Weekend. The first two were held in Saskatchewan.
“We are a grass roots organization, totally dependent on ordinary people like ourselves,” Emmons said of the event. “It was a committee from Slave Lake that came to our event last year that convinced us that the people in Alberta, particularly Slave Lake, understood the challenges our soldiers are facing. After all, three years ago, Slave Lake was indeed like a war zone.”
But whether in Saskatchewan or Alberta, Emmons said it is the community that really makes it happen. “The people understand the purpose and they step up in ways unimaginable,” he said. “Sometimes people get us confused with Wounded Warriors Canada, but we are in no way connected to them. We are not in the business of raising money like they are. We are here only to help raise the self-esteem of our veterans and first responders, and to make their lives a better place to be.”