Since its modest beginnings in 2006, Wounded Warriors Canada has made a significant impact in assisting and improving the quality of life of Canada’s wounded and their families. By establishing positive, strategic and dynamic partnerships with the Director Casualty Support Management within the Department of National Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other support agencies - coupled the generous support of our donors, Wounded Warriors Canada has been an instrument of change.
From our initial project of establishing a Comfort Fund for Wounded Soldiers while recuperating in hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, to scores of individual support projects, establishment of a hand up program, outreach programs to homeless veterans, and current initiatives to address the explosion of Operational related Stress Injuries, we are committed to assist and advocate for these Canadian Heroes.
As we move into the future we are uniquely positioned to make a significant difference in the lives of our Wounded and by extension their families and the Canadian Forces.
On September 18, 2006, a suicide bomber travelling on a bicycle detonated a bomb about 30-km west of Kandahar City. This incident killed four Canadian soldiers and an unknown number of civilians including children. Amidst this carnage, another three Canadian soldiers lay wounded and dying.
One was 20-year old Mike McTeague, a reservist deployed on his first overseas mission having only been in the military little more than two years. His wounds were serious. He and the others were rushed out of Afghanistan and sent to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. This is where wounded soldiers receive serious medical care beyond what can be done in field hospitals in Afghanistan. Back in Canada, Mike's family had received the news. They were preparing to go to Germany to be by his side, as his injuries were so severe he was not expected to live. The family asked the military that Captain Wayne Johnston accompany them on this trip.
"I have known Mike's dad for more then 30 years," says Captain Johnston, who knew Sean McTeague when they were both sergeants in the infantry. Captain Johnston had recruited and enrolled young Mike when he became old enough to join. As old family friend, he would now become their "Assisting Officer."
When a soldier is wounded or killed, the military immediately assigns an "Assisting Officer" to help the family through the tough times ahead. This is said to be one of the most difficult tasks a soldier may receive in their career. "Words cannot explain how humbling, emotional and yet so rewarding being an Assisting Officer to one of our wounded has been. Suffice to say, it has been the most important work I have done in my 33-years of service," says Captain Johnston.
The trip to Germany was an emotional one. While there, Wayne and Sean were moved by the hard work of the dedicated medical staff, the spirit of the young warriors that now lay wounded in hospital beds and the humanity of the whole experience. It was here that they wondered if there wasn't something more that could be done to help recently wounded soldiers, their families in shock and the frontline caregivers working day in and out with this.
"The fund was started because we noticed that the troops in Germany thad very little in the way of their personel items. They have very little in the way of electronics and entertainment to pass the time," says Captain Johnston. They also noticed that medical and support staff were digging into their own pockets to get the little things to ease the burden. From this the fund was born. WoundedWarriors.ca (The Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warrior Fund) supports all Canadian Forces members wounded on operations, at the outset of their healing process. The fund aims to improve the general morale and welfare of the soldiers and their families by working through first-line caregivers, medical staff, chaplains and assisting officers.
In general, the wounded stay in Germany for a period of two weeks before being transferred back to medical facilities in Canada. Mike had a miraculous recovery and regained his mobility at the esteemed St. John's Rehab Centre in Toronto. He is now getting on with the rest of his life and is back to work at his military unit.
Just as Mike has grown healthier, so has the fund. Since its inception in September 2006 it has become the beneficiary of the nation's empathy towards Canadian soldiers. The outpouring of support from Canadians has been overwhelming. Be it corporations, celebrities or everyday citizens, WoundedWarriors.ca is a success story borne out of a horrible tragedy that continues to support those in need.