Running for a reason

Back from Afghanistan, three soldiers will do the Tely 10 in full gear

Kenn Oliver koliver@thetelegram.com
Published on July 24, 2010
Sgt. John Sloan, Officer Cadet Harry Little, and Sgt. John Carew of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment will be among the hundreds of people running in Sunday’s 83rd Tely 10 road race. But, unlike their fellow racers, the trio will be jogging and walking in full fatigues, boots and rucksacks to raise awareness about the Soldier On Fund, which helps ill and injured Forces members and their families live active lives by subsidizing their expenses. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Everyone has a reason to run the Tely 10. In Sunday’s 83rd running of the historic race there will be those trying to break a record time, and those just competing against themselves. Some will run in memory of a loved one, while countless more will use it as a milestone on their path to a healthier future.

Everyone has a reason to run the Tely 10.

In Sunday’s 83rd running of the historic race there will be those trying to break a record time, and those just competing against themselves. Some will run in memory of a loved one, while countless more will use it as a milestone on their path to a healthier future.

So when you see a trio of guys in fatigues and army boots, wearing 55-pound rucksacks following the race field Sunday morning, be assured they have a good reason, too.

Royal Newfoundland Regiment Sgts. John Sloan, 47, and John Carew, 46, and Officer Cadet Harry Little, all of whom served — operating outside the wire — in Afghanistan, are participating as a show of support for their Canadian Forces brothers and sisters still stationed there.

“We have so many friends who are still overseas, some from the regiment and some from our regular forces regiment,” says Sloan, who served in Afghanistan in 2007 and now works alongside Carew as a correctional officer at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

“We want to say thanks to the boys and girls still over there doing a tough job.”

The group is also running to raise awareness about the Forces' Soldier On program. Now in its fourth year, Soldier On and the accompanying fund helps ill and injured Forces members and their families live active lives by subsidizing their expenses.

“It fills in the gaps between government programs and pensions,” explains Sloan, who was injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack while working in conjunction with local governments and security forces during his tour of Afghanistan.

“I’ve got past my injuries and tried to move on. I’m physically fine — some say I’m not mentally fine, though,” jokes Sloan, a 23-year service member.

Carew, who completed his tour in April, came home physically unscathed. But during his time in a Taliban stronghold — attached to a group of American soldiers — combat was a regular occurrence. So was injury and death.

“Ninety-five per cent of our time outside the wire was spent trying to help governance. But every time we’d leave we were shot at, mortared, or RPG’ed, and we’d have to engage the enemy and go back, and that was it for the mission. Pretty well every day,” recounts Carew, who saw 18 of his American brethren fall in combat.

(RPGs are rocket propelled grenades.)

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“We want the public to remember the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice, but also the guys who got hurt, either physically, psychologically or emotionally.” Sgt. John Sloan

But for every brother in arms lost, the 30-year veteran insists there are “10 guys who have lost legs and arms or have some psychological issues.”

“You don’t usually hear about the guys who were wounded, and the physical and mental scars that are left from the theatre,” Carew says.

“We want the public to remember the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice, but also the guys who got hurt, either physically, psychologically or emotionally,” adds Sloan.

The sergeants and Little plan on raising funds in time for a September visit from Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, an elite sniper who lost both legs after stepping on a landmine in 2007 but went on to complete a half-marathon on prosthetic legs after months of rehabilitation. He has since championed the Soldier On cause.

 

Ready to pound the pavement

Each year, the men must to qualify in the Forces’ Battle Fitness Test (BFT), part of which includes a roughly 13.5-kilometre hike with full kit.

“Every guy in the combat arms has to qualify, just to confirm you’re still physically able to carry out a very physical task that you may, in fact, have to,” says Sloan, who has competed in 10 Tely 10s, clocking his best finish at 73 minutes.

“But the rucksacks we're carrying Sunday are nothing compared to what you’d carry in a real theatre of operation,” says Carew.

The 100-plus pound behemoths contain a soldier’s clothing, food, water, ammunition and body armour among other essentials.

But Carew points out that, “the army usually never runs this stuff.”

“Everything we do is a walk and you only go as fast as your slowest man.”

To spare themselves some masochism, the trio plan on “jogging” about 30 per cent of the course while marching the rest.

“We’re not wearing boots that are meant to be run in carrying all that weight on our back,” says Carew, “Unlike most runners, we’ll end up with a lot of blisters.”

Sore feet or not, they are eager to pound the pavement in the name of the Canadian Forces, something they recognize as an organization that can be contentious.

“Regardless of whether people agree with what what we’re doing over there, the soldiers are there and they’re dying and getting injured. Right or wrong it’s what we’re told to do,” says Carew.

“I think Canadians are becoming more aware of the threat level over there and what the Canadian soldiers are giving in service to their country. That’s why we want to bring it up, raise awareness.”

To donate to the Soldier On Fund, visit: http://www.cfpsa.com/en/corporate/SoldierOn/donate_e.asp

 

koliver@thetelegram.com