Kevin Nanson has overcome more close calls with death than most, but he has beaten the odds.
He was one of around 30 veterans who attended the North Battleford Wounded Warrior Weekend gala fundraiser at the Don Ross Centre, which paid tribute to those who served in the armed forces and raised awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.
The foundation supports veterans, reservists, active-duty military and first responders, many of whom struggle with PTSD - the fallout from conflict many returning from service carry. It raises money to host a stress-free weekend away each summer for those with PTSD, where they can fish, play golf or simply relax.
Nanson, who lives in Edmonton, served with the Canadian forces in the war in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2008 as a sergeant with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
While he doesn't have PTSD himself, he does suffer from mental health challenges from what he encountered in action.
"When you come back from places and you do the stuff we do while we are overseas, a lot of the times you come back and find yourself isolated," said Nanson. "You don't feel like you fit in. You don't feel like you belong anymore. We're here to let everybody know that regardless of how you feel, you belong."
When he came in contact with a roadside bomb in 2008, he broke his back in three different spots and suffered a traumatic brain injury after fracturing his skull.
Today, Nanson is a partial-paraplegic and follows a daily routine as part of his self-care. His wife and family are also a strong source of support.
“I’ve been through 15 different surgeries to put me back together, looking as good as I look now,” he said. “It’s a constant uphill battle every day."
Nanson continues to challenge himself in a positive way as an athlete, competing in the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017.
Before the gala, the Wounded Warriors attending the event gathered for a meet and greet to get to know one another and were chauffeured to the gala by limousine.
Foundation founder Blake Emmons is a veteran himself as well as an accomplished Canadian country music artist. He suffers from PTSD and said the vets are like family to him.
Emmons hopes the fundraiser increases awareness of PTSD.
"There is a stigma - but a lot of the times it is self-stigma," he said. "That's what happens on our weekend. We get together and find out it’s ok to be not ok."
Emmons said he helps alleviate his own PTSD through what he calls "Attitude Gratitude," by being grateful for each day, and having his wife by his side.
"I wake up, and I am grateful because I woke up," he said. "I turn and look and there is my Darlene. I am grateful she is with me. Then, all I have to do is think of one good thing. That's the way I start my day."
On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW
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