Walking a mile in their shoes isn’t enough to understand what these Canadian Forces soldiers are about to experience.
Try 160 kilometres, over four days.
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Soldiers participating in the grueling, annual Nijmegen March in the Netherlands early next week attended an official sendoff at Ottawa’s Canadian War Museum yesterday.
Dubbed the ‘blister festival’ by some, the event requires participants to complete the endurance march while carrying 12-kilogram backpacks. While Canada is sending 220 marchers, this year’s event will have thousands of marchers from over 50 nations and will attract about a million spectators.
The march is a physical, mental and emotional test, said Commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier.
“Fitness will carry you only so far,” said Gauthier, who predicted that, emotionally, the march would be a humbling experience.
Canadian participation in this event commemorates the contribution of Canadian soldiers to the liberation of the Netherlands in World War II. During the trip, marchers will have the opportunity to visit the gravesites of Canadians who did not return home.
“For Canadians, remembrance is a big part of this four-day event,” agreed Charles Belzile, honourary grand president of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“There’s a special bond between the Netherlands and Canada,” Belzile said.
Lieutenant Colonel Henri Schevers with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands agreed, saying Canadians are still viewed as the liberators of his country.
“I think it’ll be cool to be part of the celebration,” said first-time participant Adam Lambert, a second lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Dragoons out of Petawawa.