30 Jan Cadence
“I still fight those battles,” he stated, hands clenched across his lap. The room fell silent, in the quiet space of understanding.
First responders, police officers and veterans gathered to listen to World War II Veteran Jim Parks, of the Royal Winnipeg Rifle Association speak of a time that shaped his life forever. In his early 90s, Mr. Parks is sprightly, sharp, warm and eager to share his stories from the front lines. He enlisted underage and found himself at Juno Beach, alongside his brother and fellow soldiers. “They dropped us in the sea, and we had to swim ashore, the whistling of artillery above our heads. Injured and dead were all around us. I held my friend as he lay dying uttering the words, ‘hold me, I’m cold.”
The memories seem to be right at the forefront. When he speaks, there is both spirit and sadness behind his eyes. Mr. Parks was invited to Cadence Wellness Centre after a chance meeting. Ken was leaving the gym and spotted the Veteran’s licence plates. Though the frigid temperature plummeted below -20 C, he felt compelled to knock on the window and shake Mr. Park’s hand. The conversation lead to an invite, and an evening of storytelling that offered comfort, camaraderie and resonance.
Old photographs, a bag of sand carrying the speckled blood of fallen soldiers, and letters from home lay across the table as Jim leaned into memories. The questions turned from those of valor, to that of the unspoken legacy of war. The support for PTSD was non-existent in WWII, the term not yet articulated. But when he spoke, not only of those he lost on the battlefield, but those comrades who took their lives after returning home, his demeanour changed. “We used to call it ‘the Year of Lost Souls“. A heavy silence hangs in the room, his words pummel with a force of knowing sadness.
Behind the smile, is a man who carried pain from his youth – the war so entrenched in his psyche. His mind is sharp, his heart is giving. His words cast a welcome light to those in struggle, his impact immeasurable, but not tonight. Each participant thanked him with tears in their eyes, and a clenched handshake of gratitude.
Your work continues on Mr. Parks, but perhaps – maybe now – good Sir, you can find a place to comfortably lay your battles to rest.
Cadence Wellness Centre was started by Chris Dupee who served 10 years within the Canadian Armed Forces as a Infantryman, Paratrooper and Lav Gunner; with a tour of duty to Afghanistan. He and his wife Angel wanted to create an environment where veterans and first responders living with PTSD can find support – for themselves and also for their families. An innovative approach to shattering stigma, providing a safe space, access to registered therapists and a dynamic Peer Support Group.