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Corporal (Ret’d) Kate MacEachern

Being audacious and bold is something that Kate MacEachern strived for from a very young age. When she enrolled to serve her country in 2005, it had been brewing in her mind since she was a little girl. When she decided to walk decked in full uniform to raise money to help struggling Veterans, no one had done it before. This is her story of determination and resilience.

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

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Joined

2005

Postings

  • Gagetown, NB
  • Strathcona Mounted Troop, Edmonton, AB

Key op. experience

  • 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver, BC
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan floods

Corporal (Ret’d) Kate MacEachern was not your average Antigonish, Nova Scotia teenage girl. She and her friend Nikola were already contemplating joining the army in high school. “As a little child, I wanted to join. If you go back 35 or 40 years, it was really not traditional for a girl to want to join the army”.

She enrolled at age 24, after attending trade school and doing a couple of other things. “Life happened,” says Kate. Her son was born a mere 11 months before her initial training began. When asked about a memorable moment early on in her military career, Kate says: “Being a single mom with a 1-year old baby when you’re competing against every other person which primarily are men, mostly 18-year olds, the whole thing was memorable!”

She successfully completed her basic training in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec and her trades training as an armoured vehicle operator at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown, New Brunswick. She was then assigned with the Strathcona Mounted Troops in Edmonton, Alberta. Kate was thrilled that her primary job would be to ride horses, participating in cavalry drills and training.

In 2007, while serving in Alberta, she was set to return to CFB Gagetown on the East coast for her Primary leadership qualification, a course required to achieve a higher rank. Once qualified, she was to be promoted to Master Corporal. Regrettably, dark clouds laid ahead. Just shy of two years after joining, Kate suffered significant injuries during a training exercise in Edmonton. It was thought she’d never come back to active duty.

“ When I got hurt, I had fractured my neck, my back, my skull… I had a bleed in my brain, and it was going to take years to recover from that. But by 2010, I had recovered enough that I could start deploying again.”

Instead of attending the course and being promoted, she followed a couple of programs with the CAF stress injury clinic in Alberta. With a lot of determination and against all odds, she returned to active service in 2010. “When I got hurt, I had fractured my neck, my back, my skull… I had a bleed in my brain, and it was going to take years to recover from that. But by 2010, I had recovered enough that I could start deploying again.”

With those significant injuries, she was deemed too high risk for an overseas deployment. Kate’s skills were used domestically instead. She became part of the unit that was tasked with security during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. She also assisted with disaster relief efforts during flooding episodes in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

In 2011, Kate thought of a unique idea: raising money to help fellow members or Veterans suffering from physical and psychological injuries by walking very long distances. At the time “though post-traumatic stress (PTSD) wasn’t a foreign subject, it wasn’t talked about much. A lot has changed in nine years.”

“It was the most brutal physical thing I’ve ever done. You look at a map, you think 580 kilometers, it’s not that bad. But within 125 kilometers, you could see bones in my feet, because I had blistered that bad. These walks brought so much attention to PTSD, and the outpouring of support prompted everyone involved to do it again.”
Kate MaEachern and her son Tyler both receive awards for their volunteer involvements. They are pictured here with Antigonish MP Sean Fraser.

Kate MaEachern and her son Tyler both receive awards for their volunteer involvements. They are pictured here with Antigonish MP Sean Fraser.

During her first walk, she covered 580 kilometers between Nova Scotia and CFB Gagetown, in uniform, carrying her 50-pound bag. She did this to raise money for “Soldier On”, an organization that contributes to the recovery of ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Veterans by providing opportunities and resources through sport, recreational, and creative activities. “It was the most brutal physical thing I’ve ever done. You look at a map, you think 580 kilometers, it’s not that bad. But within 125 kilometers, you could see bones in my feet, because I had blistered that bad. These walks brought so much attention to PTSD, and the outpouring of support prompted everyone involved to do it again.”

Kate continued these walks even after she left the CAF. Four years later, in 2014, her son Tyler, now 11 years old, insisted on accompanying Kate on her last walk. Despite suffering through his own feet blistering, Tyler soldiered on and walked all the way by her side, from Alberta to Saskatchewan. “He was old enough now to understand what we were doing. He’d seen the progression and regression of PTSD, living with his mom.” Today at 17, Tyler is a Warrant with the Cadets. He talks to youth, translating the language of adults to children who may not quite understand what their parents are going through when dealing with PTSD.

Kate continues to volunteer and has raised over $100,000 for 11 different charities. She’s also a Cadet instructor. Both her and her son have received awards for their volunteer contributions to improving life for injured Veterans.

With courage, integrity and loyalty, Kate MacEachern has left her mark. She is one of our Canadian Veterans. Discover more stories.

If you a Veteran, family member or caregiver in need of mental health support, the VAC Assistance Service is available to you 24/7, 365 days a year at no cost. Call "1-800-268-7708 to speak to a mental health professional right now.


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