Mother of veteran does Commander’s Challenge Army Run

Mother of veteran does Commander’s Challenge Army Run

Participated in event to help raise funds for veterans and awareness for PTSD and operational stress injuries.

YORKTON – A local woman and mother of a fallen veteran completed the Canada Army Run in Sept. to raise money for two veteran charities.

Bonnie Rushowick completed what is called the Commander’s Run, a challenge that consists of a five, ten and 21.6KM run where she raised over $1000 for her efforts.

“Normally the runs are only held in Ottawa and it’s usually in September,” Rushowick told Yorkton This Week, adding, “they are fundraisers for two charities that help veterans and serving members of the armed force.”

Rushowick said she first participated in the event in 2014 with her oldest son to honour her second son Patrick, who took his own life in 2013, two years after returning from the war in Afghanistan.

“Since then it’s not been possible for me to get back to Ottawa to do the Canada Army Run,” said Rushowick, adding, “when COVID hit of course the army run couldn’t happen the first year and then they came up with a virtual run so that you could participate from wherever you were in Canada.”

“This year I thought, ‘I want to do this again,'” said Rushowick, who opted to sign up for the Commander’s Challenge.

“I went online and asked friends and family if they feel that they wanted to support to donate,” said Rushowick, “I had great support from my family and from my friends here in the Yorkton area and we raised just over $1000.”

As for the run itself, Rushowick said she walked it, completing the challenge that saw her walk over 36KM of Yorkton streets over the span of two weeks.

“I had a time frame — obviously a little bit longer than doing it in person — I had between Sept. 9 and Sept. 29 to accomplish this,” said Rushowick.

An app was supplied to Rushowicks phone which she said was connected to the Canada Army Run database.

“So that when I accomplished this I could send off my information that showed how far I went and how long it took me to get there,” said Rushowick.

“Early in September as soon as I could I did a 5K on one day and then the next day I did a 10K,” said Rushowick, adding, “it took me a couple of weeks — I wanted not too hot of weather — and I did the 21K.”

“It’s amazing you can see so much of the city when you walk,” said Rushowick, “I felt I wasn’t exhausted but it worked really well for me … I had been walking lots up until this point.”

Rushowick said that it was the daily walking of her dog that helped prepare her for the long distances.

“For the 21K in particular I was very conscience of where and how fast I was going — not too fast but not too slow,” said Rushowick noting she planned her route so she could stop at home to rehydrate.

“It gave me a chance to change my socks and my shoes halfway through,” said Rushowick with a laugh.

Rushowick said walked up and down the streets between Darlington and York Road. After 5K she stopped at her house to rehydrate and from there she walked another 5K by going up and down the streets between Darlington Ave. and Broadway St., walking down one side and then up the other. To finish, she walked up along Dracup and then over to Mayhew and then up and down the paved paths before eventually ending up on Darlington again for the total of 21.6 KM.

“It’s amazing you think, ‘Yorkton is not that big,’ but I already knew from walking the dog how easy it is to get in 5K,” said Rushowick.

“When I did the 10K I realized ‘that was not hard to do at all,’ … by the end of it my feet were happy I’d changed shoes but they were also happy I’d stopped,” said Rushowick with a laugh.

“It was a beautiful day when I did the half marathon because it was cooler,” said Rushowick, “the leaves were wonderful — the yards were in great shape — it was fantastic — I felt my son Patrick would have been with me in spirit and I certainly had lots of support from various friends and family.”

Rushowick said that both her and her husband are members of the Yorkton Legion General Alexander Ross Branch #77 and it’s through the Legion’s banner program that her son Patrick and his grandfather are recognized in the community for their services to the armed forces.

“I felt like it’s giving to the soldiers and the veterans alive now as well as the work in the Legion honours those in the past as well as helping those alive and well right now,” said Rushowick.

“I had looked into the two charities and I feel very confident that they’re good charities,” said Rushowick, adding, “there’s many charities that support veterans but these particular two are the ones that are the official charities that the armed forces utilize to support veterans and serving members … I felt very confident in where the donations had been going.”

Rushowick said it was ten years in June since her son Patrick ended his life. His military history includes one year at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu outside of Montreal and four years at the Royal Military College in Kingston where he graduated as a Second Lieutenant. From there he served in Gagetown outside Fredericton, New Brunswick and Graduated as an Engineer.

In 2010 when an earthquake devastated Haiti the Canadian Armed Forces were part of the response to assist and Patrick went to Haiti at that time. It was there he was responsible for a crew that was in charge of removing rubble and setting up a water purification unit as well as assisting wherever they could.

“He came back and later that year was when he was deployed to Afghanistan,” said Rushowick. He was there from Novenber 2010 to early July of 2011, said Rushowick, noting a portion of that time was spent in Kandahar.

Rushowick said that before Patrick experienced the war in Afghanistan he had already experienced the loss of fellow soldiers.

“During his time in RMC one of the officer cadets — in his first year — committed suicide … Patrick was one of the first responders,” said Rushowick.

“Prior to his deployment to Afghanistan another good friend in the armed forces committed suicide,” said Rushowick, adding, “when he was over in Afghanistan he mentioned he was part of the ramp ceremonies.”

Ramp ceremonies were held for members of the armed forces who were killed in action and were attended by serving members of all countries regardless of their nationality.

“There was a lot of things that he alluded to but never described over there that deeply effected him,” said Rushowick, “stuff in Haiti had very deeply effected him … there was some other issues that we didn’t realize until later — they all combined.”

“At that time — and still today — armed forces just like any other responder groups — RCMP, city police, provincial police, ambulance responders even funeral directors — all see pretty horrible things but we don’t necessarily want to admit to them,” said Rushowick.

“Going for counselling or mental health support at that time really was just kind of being recognized as something that armed forces should be promoting, supporting and having,” said Rushowick, noting, “since that time there has been considerable more work done but we lose a lot of our armed forces personnel in various ways that could be prevented.”

“We’re seeing gradually that’s changing … when you have celebrities coming forth and people talking about it — it’s out there  — even though the armed forces or some of the first responder professions are not sure they’re ready to come forward quite like that.”

At the core of participating and competing in the Canadian Army Run, Rushowick said she is raising awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder or operational stress injuries in military and first responders.

“Operational stress injury — the injuries that don’t show that can be triggered and come forward years after,” said Rushowick.

“I work for a peer support group through the armed forces — and those of us who’ve lost someone — we offer peer support to people who have lost someone in the armed forces,” said Rushowick.

“We’ve gradually seen more and more support happen but we know more needs to be done,” said Rushowick, “it’s a very difficult thing to admit that you want help but when you want it you should be able to get it.”

“That’s the hardest thing,” said Rushowick, later adding, “over the years we’ve seen improvement but at the time that we lost Patrick it was just barely beginning.”

Rushowick, now the Silver Cross Mother for the Yorkton Legion, said that at one time it was a title she wouldn’t have been allowed to bare.

“At one time I never would have been because my son did not die in combat or did not die in an operational thing,” said Rushowick, “our legion and our armed forces is recognizing that there is many an injury that takes a long time before it shows.”

Whether it’s post traumatic or operational stress injury Rushowick said, “whatever they want to call it it’s been triggered by the events seen and experienced by the members of our forces.”

“It’s not an easy life but we have the ability to sit here and talk about it because we have those people.”

Rushowick noted several past relatives who were enlisted in the military.

“[Our family] deeply believe in service and that’s why Patrick went into the armed forces,” said Rushowick.

“He deeply believed in service to the country and we have a lot of good people serving in the armed forces and we need to support them.”

“Keep them alive.”

The charities Rushowick donated her raised funds to Support Our Troops and Soldier On, but she said she hopes people donate to any reputable organization that focuses on mental health.

“Any of the mental health charities that support people or support those suffering from mental injuries — I hope that they’ll see their way to do that,” said Rushowick, adding, “please don’t be afraid to support the charities, groups and services.”

“Those are the ones that make a difference in so many ways to somebody’s life and their family’s life … when people die it’s not just a death it’s a death of so many other things — so many possibilities so many futures — it’s a loss of possibilities so if we can prevent that we need to do it.”


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