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Riding for veterans: Barrington native travelling the country to tell people to talk about mental health

Barrington native Michael Terry takes a break in North East Point on Cape Sable Island during his Dispatches-Ride for Veterans cross-Canada road trip. A 23-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, Terry is travelling the country hoping to engage with fellow veterans to talk about their time in the service, their struggles and finding purpose after the uniform.
Barrington native Michael Terry takes a break in North East Point on Cape Sable Island during his Dispatches-Ride for Veterans cross-Canada road trip. A 23-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, Terry is travelling the country hoping to engage with fellow veterans to talk about their time in the service, their struggles and finding purpose after the uniform. - Kathy Johnson

BARRINGTON, N.S. – When Barrington native Michael Terry started seeing the telltale signs of depression, isolation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in himself after his 23-year career in the Canadian Armed Forces came to an end, he knew he had to do something.

So, he bought himself a Kawasaki KLR motorcycle as an ode to his time in the service as a dispatch rider and has hit the open highway, with Dispatches-Ride for Veterans, a cross-Canada road trip where he hopes to connect with fellow veterans along the way to hear their stories.

The purpose of the ride is three-fold, said Terry in an interview while in the Barrington area recently. “There’s three parts to it,” he said. “One is to bring positive reflection on the service. I left the Forces pretty angry. Things didn’t go very well but rather than hang on to that, I want to reflect on the good parts of the service,” he said. “The second part is to speak about the injuries and struggles since our time in uniform. Most of that is focused on PTSD and mental health because of the stigma and isolation that comes from that, and the last part is to ask what the unifying purpose, passion and fulfilment after the uniform is because that’s one of the big hurdles that we face, so it’s kind of the good, the bad and ending on that upswing.”

He said the biggest goal he has is to get people talking because people don’t talk about mental health.

“A lot of us have the feeling we are alone in our struggles and we don’t share it with other people. All of our struggles are very similar so it’s trying to get people talking,” Terry said. “I’ve lost more friends since I came back from Afghanistan than I did in Afghanistan to suicide and self-medicating drug abuse. I essentially lost them to isolation, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. I saw those things happening in myself. I was becoming very isolated. I lost a friend in October and didn’t know it until the end of March, so I realized I am becoming isolated and shut off as well. As I was seeing myself starting to struggle, I knew I had to find a purpose, a passion so this was it for me.”

Terry left Meaford, Ont., where he did his basic training, on June 18, with plans to arrive in Borden, Ont., where his career ended, on Sept. 1. So far, he has visited Ottawa, Edmundston and Oromocto, N.B., Truro and Barrington. After leaving Barrington, it was back to Truro, then on to North Sydney to catch the ferry to Argentia, NL. From there, Terry planned to travel to St. John’s and up the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, over to Labrador and down the Labrador highway through to northern and central Quebec. “Then start making my way west.”

The plan is working.

“Everywhere I go, I’m meeting with people,” said Terry. “What has happened everywhere I’ve gone is I have reconnected with people and met new people and have been having conversations.”

Some people have shared things they had never shared before, he said.

“The fact that they are talking is exactly what I hope to get out of this.”

While it’s a solo ride, Terry has been joined along the route by friends, which he welcomes.

Through his Facebook page Dispatches-Ride for Veterans, his travel plans are posted daily, and a GPS tracker is updated every five minutes with his position.

“My hope is that anybody who wants to come in and ride along with me for a few minutes or an hour or the day, they know where I’m going to be, and they can meet up. That’s been happening,” said Terry. “I encourage anybody that wants to ride – veteran or not – come out and join up. It means a lot to me.”

Terry said while the Dispatches Ride for Veterans has been a big undertaking, so far it has been an amazing trip.

“I hope it helps to inspire people, especially veterans who are caught in a rut to find an adventure, bite off more that you can chew. It’s incredibly energizing. You don’t have the time to be lonely or depressed, which very much reflects the service.”

A professional photographer and videographer, Terry hopes to capture veterans’ stories to share with others through interviews along the route.

“I hope to encourage them to share their story, if not with me with a friend, family member or health-care professional. That’s what’s I want.”

Terry is being sponsored by Royal Distributing, a Canadian motorsport retailer and supplier.

“They came on board to help me out with some equipment and exposure,” he said.

He also has a GoFundMe page where people have been making donations to help offset the cost of the ride.

As a dispatch rider in the Canadian Forces, he said, “My job was to take orders and messages from one position to the next because we couldn’t send them over the radio or they could be intercepted. Now we have encrypted communications but that was my job, hence the name, Dispatches-Ride for Veterans because I’m just trying to go out and carry those messages and connect all the dispersed veterans because they are everywhere.”

Terry’s journey can be followed via Facebook at Dispatches Ride for Veterans  https://www.facebook.com/dispatches2018/

THE RIDE SCHEDULE:

JUNE 19: OTTAWA, ON

JUNE 22 & 23: OROMOCTO, NB

JUNE 25: TRURO, NS

JUNE 27: BARRINGTON, NS

JULY 1 & 2: ST. JOHN'S, NL

JULY 6: HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY. NL

JULY 9: BAGOTVILLE, QC 

JULY 11: QUEBEC CITY, QC

JULY 13: PETAWAWA, ON

JULY 18:WINNIPEG, MB

JULY 21: WAINWRIGHT, AB

JULY 23: COLD LAKE, AB

JULY 25 & 26: EDMONTON, AB

JULY 28: HAY RIVER, NT

JULY 30: WHITEHORSE, YT

AUG. 9: WHISTLER, BC

AUG. 11: COMOX, BC

AUG. 15: VANCOUVER, BC

AUG. 18, 19 & 20: CALGARY, AB

AUG. 22: REGINA, SK

AUG. 24: SHILO. MB

AUG/ 26&27: WINNIPEG. MB

SEPT. 1: BORDEN, ON

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