For Allan Kobayashi, endurance running is key component of his effort to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder, diagnosed after multiple tours of Afghanistan. A 30 kilometre run, he says, provides a “sense of clarity in my mind and heart.”
Kobayashi and four other military colleagues are spring-boarding their passion for endurance training into an effort to raise awareness of PTSD among serving and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Wounded Warrior Run B.C. will cover the length over Vancouver Island – 600 km over six days.
Kobayashi, a PO2 with the damage control school in Colwood, and fellow runner Sgt. Dan Bodden, an Air Force search and rescue tech, came up with the ambitious project last August through the understanding that many of their colleagues suffer in silence with PTSD, unaware or refusing to acknowledge they have an unseen injury.
“I knew I had to come up with a mission to raise awareness of PTSD,” Kobayashi said. “I knew I wanted to do something to give back.”
Kobayashi admits he nearly lost his family due to the ill affects of PSTD, and credits his wife Fran for forcing him to seek help. It wasn’t an easy process.
“I was scared, terrified. But there is help, and you need to take that step and seek the help that is there,” he said. Not only in the Canadian Forces, but the rest of our brothers in uniform – police, fire, paramedics – and everyday civilians.”
The Wounded Warrior Run B.C. effort kicked off Friday at Saunders Subaru in Colwood, which will provide the finish line for the ultra-marathon that starts in Port Hardy on Feb. 16.
“These guys are what I call miracle workers. There are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who are affected by PTSD, it’s a stress they face each day,” Bob Saunders said. “We need to send a strong message to Ottawa not to close (veterans) support centres and create undue stress with bureaucratic red tape.”
Lt.-Col. Chris Linford (retired), a Victoria resident and national ambassador for Wounded Warriors Canada, helped convince the Saunders family to support the cause.
He has suffered from PTSD for 20 years after a 1994 mission in Rwanda during that nation’s genocide, as detailed in his book Warrior Rising.
“I was a strong, fit soldier, a nursing officer ready and trained. I tell you, of the 200 of us sent in (to Rwanda), 200 returned injured with PTSD,” he told the audience at the kickoff event. “I spent the next 10 years hiding it from everyone because of the stigma. The stigma is powerful, it totally controls you, and PTSD controls you.”
Like Kobayashi, Linford’s wife convinced him to seek help offered through the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We need to convince veterans who haven’t found their way to come forward and admit they have an injury. That is one of the hardest things you can do. It’s against soldier culture and nature to declare themselves as a casualty. Getting to that point is a lot of work,” Linford said. “The attention these guys will bring to the cause will save people. Bringing attention to this will convince Canadians that work needs to be done and the government needs to provide resources.”
Moving the Wounded Warrior run from conception to reality has been a larger logistical challenge for Kobayashi and Bodden than expected.
Neither had organized athletic events before, let alone a multi-day endurance effort through a dozen towns and cities. Both men say the offers of equipment, food and lodging has been gratifying and overwhelming.
“There is a large, quiet groundswell of support from the Canadian public, support that’s always been there and this confirms it. I think the Canadian public is very proud of its military,” Bodden said.
“This is a huge logistics event. It’s a steep learning curve,” he said. “Running is the easy part.”
The Wounded Warrior B.C. run begins Feb. 16 in Port Hardy, and ends in Colwood on Feb. 21. See woundedwarriorrunbc.com for details on the route, donating, or joining a leg of the run.