An Afghanistan veteran will be riding his bike to Calgary military memorials in an effort to raise money to help not only fellow veterans but also those who are still in danger in that country.
For Tegh Singh, regular exercise has been a crucial part of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now, the veteran is using bike riding as a way to raise money to get interpreters still in Afghanistan to safety.
“I have been able to grow very close to some of the interpreters out there, and I have some very heartbreaking stories about things that have happened to them for working with us,” Singh said.
Singh will be riding his bike to military memorials around Calgary on Remembrance Day as part of the Ride for Veterans. It’s a fundraiser for the Veterans Transition Network.
For the past eight years, VTN has helped veterans get counselling and transition programs, but this year, it has taken on an unfamiliar task: getting interpreters and Afghan citizens who worked with the Canadians Armed Forces out of danger.
“At times, it’s been deeply frustrating and difficult as well, but we are continually bolstered by the incredible spirit of veterans and the Canadian public who have made this work possible,” said Oliver Thorne, executive director of VTN.
‘Life and limb’
Thorne said the VTN has raised $2.5 million, its typical annual budget, in the past three months. It is money that has helped get Afghan citizens out of the county and housed others in emergency shelters.
“The concern is literally life and limb. These are individuals who largely supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan,” Thorne said.
“We also have people in the network who are human rights defenders and journalists who have worked for NGOs. They are public enemy number one on the list of the Taliban, so we are enormously worried for their well-being and their safety.”
For veterans like Singh, taking part in the Ride for Veterans is a way to help those who helped our armed forces.
“I have had many instances of running into gunfire with a team of other soldiers, and the interpreters are right there behind me,” Singh said.
“You have that level of commitment to a human being to say I am right here with you at the worst of times. You have so much respect and appreciation for that person because they would go above and beyond what so many other people would do.”
Singh said once he was able to receive treatment through VTN for his PTSD, it changed his life for the better.
Two weeks ago, VTN had to inform around 1,700 people in Kabul safe houses their funding was running out. It costs the charity about $15,000 a day to keep those safe houses operating.
Thorne said the interpreters saved lives.
“There’s an enormous connection between Afghan veterans and the interpreters and the locally employed staff they worked with,” Thorne said.
Thorne said he’s amazed by the generosity and support from Canadians who have donated to VTN this year.
“We saw, unanimously, veterans across Canada voicing their support for their Afghan colleagues that they worked with and for their families wanting to see them brought to safety,” he said.
He said the actions of veterans like Singh are another demonstration of the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of veterans and the desire to help one another.
“Tegh has been a fantastic representative of the organization. We are incredibly appreciative of the work he has done,” Thorne said.
This is the second year Singh will ride around 35 kilometres to Calgary memorials to support VTN.