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Major (Ret'd) Jay Feyko

After sustaining a serious injury while serving in Afghanistan in 2004, Major (Ret'd) Jay Feyko was drawn to Soldier On, a Canadian Armed Forces program that empowers physically and mentally injured members to embrace an active lifestyle.

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Jay Feyko

Jay Feyko was inspired by Rick Hansen, and other Canadian icons, who have used sport to help with their recovery from serious injury, and reinforce their belief in their ability to adapt and overcome adversity.

"The concept is not new to the military," he says. "Dating to right before World War Two, the UK was using sport as a major method of therapy for ill and injured members, helping build up physical strength and self-respect."

During Canada's Mission in Afghanistan, the concept was re-born in Canada in 2007, after the Canadian Armed Forces adapted the idea of using sport to help care for ill and injured members.

“You know it's great to have the opportunity to represent your country again and [for them] to wear the maple leaf as they once did on their uniforms.”

Feyko is now the National Manager of the Soldier On program, where he and his team support injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans on their journey to recovery through sport.

He says being named to Team Canada for the Invictus Games gives individuals a strong sense of pride and accomplishment, but that every member of the team is going through their own challenges. They will be pushed out of their comfort zone and stress will accompany that push, but overall it's a positive opportunity to focus, set goals and begin their journey to recovery.

"You know it's great to have the opportunity to represent your country again and [for them] to wear the maple leaf as they once did on their uniforms," Feyko says.

This year, the games were set to take place in The Hague, but they have been postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Team Canada's competitors have continued to train and prepare for next year's Invictus Games, where they will compete against Veterans and active service members from around the world.

Starting in 2017, Canada decided that they would put first time applicants to the front of the line for the opportunity to compete at the Invictus Games. Feyko says that Canada was the first, and is still the only country that follows this protocol for naming its competitors, to ensure that newcomers to the Soldier On program are given a chance to compete and be named to team Canada.

For Feyko, watching the competitors walk out to a standing ovation in the opening ceremonies, the year the Invictus Games were held in Toronto, was something he will never forget.

"Knowing and appreciating how far some of the team members had come in their recovery to make it to that point [and] to see the team come together in that light was a very cool experience and very touching for me." Feyko says.

As we highlight Canadian Veterans and Armed Forces members who will represent Canada at the Invictus Games in 2021, Major (Ret'd) Jay Feyko is this week's Face of Freedom.

Listen to Jay Feyko on our Faces of Freedom Podcast.

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