Paul Nichols leads fellow Canadian Forces veterans at the start of cross-country ride at the B.C. legislature Monday.

B.C. veterans begin cross-Canada ride

Ride to include 700 veterans, going through Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Princeton, Kelowna, Vernon and Armstrong

Quesnel rancher Paul Nichols kicked off a cross-Canada horseback ride Monday to introduce a new generation of veterans to the public and seek their support.

Nichols, who served with Canadian troops during ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, struggled to control his emotions at a ceremony at the B.C. legislature.

“Our Canadian troops do a hard job for us, and when they choose to transition back into civilian life, some of them struggle and lose their way,” Nichols said. “And I can tell you from personal experience that a heartfelt thank-you and timely support from the community during that time of transition can be life-changing. So my job through this foundation is to put as many Canadian veterans in the saddle as I can.”

Accompanied by other B.C. veterans and his wife Terry, a therapeutic riding instructor, Nichols plans to connect with 700 veterans in an eight-month journey ending in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“That awareness will create change, and with that change I believe that we can lower the incidence and severity of post-traumatic stress disorder, lower the incidence of family breakup and I think we can lower the incidence of veteran suicide,” Nichols said.

B.C. Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon attended the ceremony to wish the riders well on their journey, offering a stop for hay and food at her ranch in the Nicola Valley.

The ride includes stops in Abbotsford, Chilliwack Hope, Princeton, Summerland, Kelowna, Vernon and Armstrong before continuing into Alberta in May.

For more information the ride, and to follow its progress, see their website at www.communitiesforveterans.com.

VIDEO: Canadian Forces riding from Victoria to St. John’s