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    • Sgt. Bjarne Nielsen North Pole Trek using a sit ski a success!

      1 mai 2014

      North Pole trek an emotional one for wounded vets, business leaders
      Disabled veterans skied on 140-km trip
      By Oliver Sachgau, Ottawa Citizen
      Original article
      Sgt. Bjarne Nielsen, right, is one of 12 soldiers who took part in the
      140-kilometre expedition to the magnetic North Pole on Wednesday.
      Photograph by: Richard Vandentillaart. , Handout photo

      Up until now Tim Hodgson’s voice has been energetic, but steady, as he describes from a telephone in Resolute, Nunavut, the journey he and his team took to the Magnetic North Pole on Wednesday.

      But then Hodgson, managing partner of Toronto investment firm Alignvest and former CEO of Goldman Sachs Canada, mentions Sgt. Bjarne Nielsen, who he calls “Bee.”

      Nielsen is one of 12 soldiers who took part in the 140-kilometre expedition. His left leg, and part of his left arm, were amputated after an IED blast in Afghanistan on Canada Day of 2010.

      Nielsen, from Cambridge, Ont., served with the 1 Royal Canadian regiment in Afghanistan. During the trek, he alternately pushed himself on a custom-built sled, or was pulled by his fellow soldiers and civilian comrades. For the final 100 metres, Nielsen put on a prosthetic leg, and stood up to ski his way to the Pole.

      And when Hodgson describes seeing Nielsen stand up and ski the last few metres, his voice breaks. He takes a few seconds to swallow and breathe, before continuing.

      “This guy who gave his body and his soul to the country, and now has one leg and one arm, we were going to get him to the pole,” Hodgson continues, his voice wavering again.

      Nielsen couldn’t keep his eyes dry either. He said seeing the camaraderie of the group, and how they all pulled together to get to the pole, was overwhelming for him.

      “I couldn’t stop crying because emotionally it had taken a lot,” Nielsen said.

      “It’s nice to know there’s a nation behind you, supporting you. With all the friends I’ve had, all the family, all the strangers, that chose to stand up and say, ‘I support our Canadian veterans,” he said.

      Being able to ski, let alone 140 km to the North Pole, was not something he could have imagined a few years ago.

      “Never did I ever think, during that time of my initial recovery, was I going to make this dream possible. I didn’t even have an inkling in my mind,” he said.

      The expedition was part of a documentary launched by True Patriot Love, an organization that supports Canadian soldiers and veterans.

      The aim was to raise money and awareness about the physical and mental injuries that Canadian soldiers face, especially when they come back from deployment, Hodgson said.

      The group managed to raise around $1.5 million, which will go to support military mental health. It’s an issue that Hodgson feels isn’t being addressed enough.

      “This is wrong. These guys and women volunteered to go, and as a society we’re not standing behind them when they come home. And this has nothing to do with government, this is all of us,” Hodgson said.

      The trip teamed the 12 soldiers with 24 Canadian corporate leaders, in the hopes that the leaders would bring the conversations and lessons from the trip back home to their communities.

      “Every night on the ice we would talk, and we would hear about (the soldiers’) challenges, and the struggles they were having. It was inspirational to hear what they were pushing through,” Hodgson said.

      When the expedition reached the magnetic North Pole, they all held hands and sang the national anthem. Hogdson said he was reminded of something the soldiers had repeated along the trip.

      “The soldiers taught us a line. The first couple of days I don’t think the civilians got it. What they said was, ‘We don’t leave anyone behind,’ and I think everybody kind of got it (then),” he said.

      Additional information about Sgt. Bjarne Nielsen
      The National - Part 4:Bringing Home the War (Warning: descriptive information about Bjarne Nielsen's events of the IED explosion.)