EASTERN PASSAGE- An Eastern Passage man is taking his message of the importance of service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, all the way to Ottawa.
On Thursday, Medric Cousineau left his house to begin a 50 day walk to the nation’s capital. He is trying to raise about $350,000 for 50 service dogs for 50 veterans. Veterans Affairs does not currently fund service dogs for veterans.
Cousineau was greeted by approximately 75 friends and supporters Thursday morning at MacCormack’s Beach. The veteran served in the military for about 12 years but developed PTSD after a particularly harrowing rescue mission. The incident left him with anger issues and other mental health concerns. It was only after he got a service dog named Thai from an American centre that his life turned around.
“I will continue to fight my PTSD daily for the rest of my life,” he told the crowd.
Earlier in the morning, he told Global News that he was anxious and eager to start the long journey.
“I wish I could have started yesterday. Thai thinks we should have started yesterday too,” he said with a laugh.
Then he got serious about how PTSD can sometimes be a silent killer. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by reliving a traumatic situation through nightmares and flashbacks.
“There are a lot of people in our community who suffer from PTSD. Something that lives in our community is also going to be represented by all the communities across Canada. I just want to take the message of hope out there,” he said.
Cousineau trained by walking 2,300 kilometres and climbing 9,000 flights of stairs. He says he lost 170 pounds in the process. He will carry water, medical supplies, rain gear, food for Thai and other supplies during the walk.
Supporters and fellow veterans say they could not be more proud of him.
“Godspeed to him,” said Rickhard D’anjou, who served in the military for 31 years. “He went through a lot of diversity in his life. All the power to him.”
“I think he’s great. I think he’s going to do a wonderful job,” said Rick Nagle, a friend of Cousineau’s.
Nagle says the federal government needs to act swiftly to help this country’s veterans.
“They should step up and really look at this matter and do something about it,” he said.
“[The government] seems to have in their mind, once a veteran is a veteran, they’re completely ignored,” said Brian Blaney, who served in the military for more than 33 years.
After leaving MacCormack’s Beach, Cousineau journeyed to CFB Shearwater where he was met by several Silver Cross families. The award is given to the next of kin of a member of the Canadian Forces who loses his or her life in service.
The veteran, with dog Thai in tow, laid a wreath at the Afghanistan monument. Several white doves were also released into the air to symbolize the hope needed to overcome mental health issues as a result of military service.
Wife Jocelyn, who stood by Cousineau as he suffered through his PTSD, says she is happy that he is getting better and becoming more sociable.
“We’re all glad he’s moving forward and getting out more. I’m very proud. He always does what he sets out to do,” she said.
As for Cousineau, he is ready for the next part of his journey.
“The journey of a thousand kilometres starts with a single step. We’ve made that step. We’re going to try and get help for our injured and I think we’ve done it in fine style,” he said.
If you’re interested in donating, check out this link: http://pawsfurthought1.com/
Cousineau, who plans to walk a half marathon (approximately 21 kilometres) every day, expects to be in New Brunswick by August 8, in Quebec by August 17 and in Ontario by August 22 before arriving in Ottawa on September 19.