Growing up in Quebec, Steve Deschamps and Stephane were inseparable.
The duo would build camps together, play war and dream of serving in the military.
Both had parents who were also serving in the military, so they grew accustomed to the lifestyle of constantly moving around.
Eventually, they went their separate ways — Stephane joined in the military, while Deschamps moved away with his father and worked in forestry for a number of years in B.C.
In 2005, Deschamps finally did what he’s wanted to do since he was a child — he joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a steward and diver out of CFB Esquimalt. He went on to deploy to the Persian Gulf with HMCS Protecteur for nine months, where he participated in drug trafficking operations.
“I always wanted to serve my country,” said the Esquimalt resident. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid. I’m very active so the military provides me with a chance to keep myself healthy and in good shape.”
But during his time in the Navy, Deschamps never forgot his childhood friend.
One day, Deschamps was talking to another friend who served with Stephane when he found out that Stephane had been released from the military. He had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, being unable to cope with it, he committed suicide.
Deschamps was shocked by the news.
“It was very tragic. When he came back from (deployment), he wasn’t talking about it, he was a very quiet person. Sometimes we can only take so much,” he said. “I just wanted to be there. There wasn’t much I could do but be present.”
Now, Deschamps is doing his part to raise awareness of the disorder by running in the third annual Wounded Warriors Run B.C., where six runners, many of whom served in the military or navy, will relay run the length of Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Victoria.
The group will run for seven consecutive days, covering roughly 600 kilometres, and will stop at legions and fire halls along the way to raise awareness about PTSD and connect with people suffering from it.
“Mental health, there’s a lot of stigma about it. People don’t talk about it, but doing the run, people will see us running and talking about it and maybe it will save lives,” Deschamps said.
Jeff Kibble, spokesperson for the run, said the impact that runners have on people suffering from PTSD is profound.
“When they (runners) do come across people who are literally out of options and don’t know how to carry on their daily life, and they see the team and they reach out and get help — that’s priceless and it’s the ultimate impact you could ever ask for,” he said.
The run takes place from Monday, Feb. 22 to Sunday, Feb. 28. Live tracking will also be available to see where each runner is. For more information visit woundedwarriorbc.com.
The Wounded Warrior Run B.C. is an event supported by Wounded Warriors Canada, which has no affiliation with the Wounded Warriors Project in the U.S.