Legion counting on fundraiser for veterans

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May 19, 2015 8:15 AM

After raising $20,000 last year, the Lloydminster Legion Branch is struggling to sell tickets for its May 23 Dinner and Dance in support of The Wounded Warriors Weekend for war veterans.

“They’re so slow this year, and the economy’s a big part of it,” said Ryan Ference, who’s chairing the event.

The Legion uses the Dinner and Dance event to raise funds to send veterans to the Wounded Warriors Weekend retreat, which is being held this year in Chilliwack, B.C. The Wounded Warriors Weekend brings together retired soldiers from Canada, England, Australia and the United States, where they can make social connections and share war and post-war experiences, many of which are less than glamourous.

“A lot of these soldiers haven’t left their houses since they’ve been back from war, or they just don’t talk to anybody,” said Ference, a former corporal. “This gets them out there, (they) realize that they’re not alone.”

The Wounded Warriors Weekend has been as powerful as a life-saver in the past, says Ference, who recounts the story of an Australian woman on the verge of suicide.

“She got the call to come and her family begged her to go and her plan was to go to the Wounded Warriors event, go back home and kill herself,” he said. “She went to the Wounded Warriors event, it changed her life, (she) met people and realized she could get through it.”

The “it” Ference refers to, for many war veterans is post-traumatic stress Ddsorder (PTSD), a mental illness that can cause severe depression, anxiety and other issues. PTSD is a common problems for soldiers that have to reintegrate themselves into society after returning from the battlefield.

“You come home from war and people are almost scared of you. They think they know what you’ve done and what you’ve seen, and they don’t know how to talk to veterans,” said Ference. “In some cases, (employers) are afraid to hire them, they don’t know if they’re stable.”

Finding a new job is even more difficult for those that come home with insufficient working skills because they’ve been away for so long. It’s one of several issues retired soldiers face, says Ference.

“They’ve always been in that military mentality, where they know what they’re doing, they know when they’re doing it, they know who to answer to,” he said.

See “Wounded Warriors,” Page 9

“They have to start getting out of that and (adapt to) a different way of thinking, a different way of working. It’s challenging.”

In addition to dinner and musical entertainment - One Cent Melon is scheduled to perform - the May 23 event will also feature a silent auction. Ference says the array of available prizes will have something for everyone and will include gift baskets, services, memorabilia and sports experiences.

Tickets cost $50 per person and corporate tables of six to 10 people are available. Those interested in attending or gathering more information can contact Ryan Ference by phone at 780-808-1827 or by email at ryanference@hotmail.com. As of Thursday, Ference said that around 100 tickets remain unsold.

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