A Cold Lake soldier who was badly injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2010 completed his 320-kilometre race to the South Pole before Christmas.
Chris Downey, 32, is one of 12 wounded soldiers from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia who participated in the Walking with the Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge with Britain’s Prince Harry.
Harry’s involvement brought attention to the race, Downey says, but once the media went away, he was just a regular guy.
“He’s very down to earth, just another soldier,” Downey said. “Same jokes, same conversation. We played football. Just another guy.”
The race comes after years of intense recovery and rehabilitation from injuries received in the 2010 explosion.
Downey had just finished defusing an improvised explosive device when he got caught in another blast as he was walking back to base.
Downey lost his right eye, teeth and part of his lip. He suffered shrapnel wounds, burns and lacerations and a collapsed lung.
The blast killed his friend and colleague Craig Blake, who Downey credits with saving his life by absorbing the force of the blast with his body.
Downey made a point to remember and honour his friend during the last kilometre of the trek.
“I basically skied by myself next to everybody, and I talked to him for that kilometre, basically thanking him, letting him know what I was doing and saying my goodbyes,” he said.
Downey said he was in tears by the time he reached the pole -- but the mood soon turned to celebration as he thought about everyone who helped him recover.
Money raised from the race will help other wounded soldiers.