Former sailor has Invictus hopes after Soldier On event
By Ryan Melanson,
LS (Ret’d) Danielle Lidstone was released from the CAF four years ago due to complications from a herniated disc in her back, and since that time, there’s been something missing in her life.
She joined the Navy in 1999 and planned for a 30 year career, only to have those plans cut short a little more than halfway through.
“It can be very difficult after we release, especially for people who have a significant amount of time in the military and who have devoted their life to it,” she said.
“I had a real sense of loss. There was kind of a grieving period for my Forces career.”
One thing that helps, she added, is reconnecting with other veterans and people who have had similar experiences, which is why attending a recent Soldier On archery event held in Hants County was such a positive and healing experience. The small group was introduced to competitive archery, a low impact sport that’s easy on certain injuries, and enjoyed a day of socially distanced activities and getting to know each other.
“It’s not just the job aspect when you release from the CAF, you lose the camaraderie, all your friends in the military, and you lose that feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself,” she said.
“Just being down there last weekend with other members – we all have injuries, we have mental health issues, we can talk and laugh about it, and some of that feeling starts to come back.”
The archery day was hosted by Sgt(Ret’d) Steve Murgatroyd, a former Invictus Games athlete who is now the Archery Coach for Canada’s Invictus Games team. He lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2015, and said Soldier On and Invictus have provided him with great opportunities to bounce back from his injury in an exciting way while staying connected to the military community.
“I believe in paying it forward, so it’s my pleasure to connect with other members, introduce them to a sport and welcome them to the Soldier On family,” he said.
Eileen Du Plooy, Soldier On’s Regional Coordinator for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, said the organization is working to build its presence in the Maritimes, hopefully leading to more of these types of events in the future, in accordance with any public health guidelines.
“This was an amazing opportunity to get some of our members out to reconnect with peers and to enjoy a new skill set,” she said.
For LS(Ret’d) Lidstone, the experience left her feeling reinvigorated and reconnected with likeminded people. Working with Sgt(Ret’d) Murgatroyd also reintroduced her to the possibility of becoming an Invictus athlete herself, and she now has plans to continue training in archery and work towards that goal, despite a fourth spinal surgery scheduled in the near future.
“I’m a very competitive person, so getting back to that is an exciting notion,” she said, adding that she competed both nationally and internationally in taekwondo during her CAF career.
“I don’t call anything my end goal, because there’s always more to be done, but Invictus is definitely the path that I’m heading toward right now.”