Edmonton veterans share stories, challenges at first Canadian Walk for Veterans
Some of the money raised will go towards a class-action lawsuit over changes to veterans' benefits
The first annual Canadian Walk for Veterans launched Sunday in Edmonton, as well as seven other cities across the country.
Dozens of people joined the five-kilometre walk around Rundle Park to raise awareness about the challenges faced by Canadian men and women once they leave the military.
"Civilians and military don't really mix very often, except for Remembrance Day," said organizer Chance Burles.
"Even then it's so regimented and so formal no one really talks to each other. We get handshakes and people say thank you, but you never get the relaxed chat you would get from walking beside someone."
Burles, a retired master corporal, served eight years with the military, including a 2008 tour in Afghanistan.
He helped organize and host the Edmonton walk on behalf of Equitas Society, an advocacy group for Canadian veterans.
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In 2012, the society announced its support for a pro-bono class-action lawsuit over changes to veterans' benefits.
We were there getting blown up and getting shot at and fighting the war that the country sent us to and they they turned their back on us when we got home.- Chance Burles, retired master corporal
The six plaintiffs, all former soldiers, claim they will receive significantly less support as a result of the changes.
"It's looked at as a betrayal," Burles said.
"We were there getting blown up and getting shot at and fighting the war that the country sent us to and then they turned their back on us when we got home. Not cool."
Equitas Society agreed to cover the costs associated with suing the federal government. Some of the money donated at Sunday's event will go toward the ongoing lawsuit, Burles said.
Mark Campbell, a retired major and one of the plaintiffs, was at Sunday's event in Edmonton.
He lost both of his legs in 2008 following a roadside explosion during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.
Campbell said he wants to raise awareness about what he describes as government inaction in the face of mounting pressure from disabled veterans.
"It's insanely frustrating. And unfortunately when the government doesn't want to move quickly, it moves like a glacier," Campbell said.
"Without financial security for yourself and your family, there's no way that you can become mentally and physically well."
Equitas Society members across the country organized similar walks in B.C., Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick.