This April, I’m flying to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to march 26.2 miles while carrying a 35-pound pack over uneven terrain, up rolling hills and down steep climbs. At the Mountain Man Memorial March I’ll hike for hours alongside active duty military, reserve and guard units, veterans, civilian family, friends of the fallen, and even Cub Scouts.
My eldest son, RJ, is a sophomore at Wake Forest University in North Carolina in the U.S. Army ROTC Program. When RJ graduates college, he’ll receive a commission as a a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Few things in the world can inspire you to get fit, eat better, sleep more and take care of your health than a challenge like this. Which is why I love planning these types of expeditions, whether the trip involves canoeing the Canadian arctic or trekking the Himalayas. Funds raised go toward the True Patriot Love Foundation. (Read about TPL’s new CEO, Nick Booth, here.)
As reported in Sebastien Junger’s book Tribe, high soldier PTSD rates are in part due to the stark transition modern soldiers face as they leave the military culture of total belonging, shared resources and serving the collective good.
Chris Power, a medically-released veteran who manages special projects at Medcan, explains how events like the Mountain Man Memorial March remind soldiers they share common values and remain a part of the larger community.
“Soldiers don’t often have the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and capabilities to the general public,” says Power. “Events like this inspire soldiers and give them a sense of pride in the skills they bring to the table.”
Power joined the True Patriot Love expedition to Mount Everest last April (you can read about it here).
“It wasn’t about reaching the summit of Lobuche East, it was about learning to appreciate every step along the way,” he says. “During transition out of the military it can feel like a soldier is losing their identity and purpose. Having the opportunity to face adversity as a ‘civilian’ can help rebuild their self-confidence and hope for the future.”
And, you don’t have to travel to Nepal for the same impact.
Since signing up for the march, my son keeps me accountable and checks that I’m working out regularly (his school regimen is strict, so I need to keep up with him). I’m excited to get to see him in a different environment and observe the man he’s becoming. Together with his classmates and the Medcan team, we’ll all be focused on achieving something together without distractions (no phones!). Previous trips with my two other sons have led to incredible growth for all of us, including networking and opportunities to stretch socially, emotionally and physically.
Now in its 12th year, the annual MMMM is scheduled for 26-27 April, 2019, in Gatlinburg, TN. This event has become one of the largest events in the United States to celebrate the service and honour the ultimate sacrifice of fallen service members. Any funds collected can be directed to True Patriot Love in support of military and Veteran families.
Medcan will help you register and book hotel rooms together with other members of the team. We can also set you up with a fitness and/or nutrition preparation plan to get you in peak shape for the march. If interested, please email Kate Kulcheski, Executive Assistant to Shaun Francis at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about upcoming expeditions like the True Patriot Love’s Women’s Expedition: Baffin Island 2019, which will bring together a team of Canadian female soldiers and Veterans with female business and community leaders from across Canada.
Looking forward to meeting you and see you in Tennessee.
Shaun Francis is the Chair of the True Patriot Love Foundation, the official charity of Invictus Games Canada and is CEO and Chair of Medcan, a proud sponsor of The Invictus Games.
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