Back to the battlefields

A veteran of the mission in Afghanistan returns to tour historic WWI and WWII sites on bike, this time with Wounded Warriors Canada.

John Lowe is pictured on the lawn near London’s Big Ben. Last year

For the second year in a row, retired Canadian veteran John Lowe is headed to the battlefields of France to cycle hundreds of kilometers on a trip that sounds as physically punishing as it will be therapeutic.

And if the thought of riding his bike over cobblestones, around hairpin turns, and up huge hills wasn’t enough to keep him home, then the spectre of puncturing a bike tire twice in half an hour – thanks to shards of flint that lie in wait on those bucolic country roadways – wasn’t about to faze him.

Of course, the allure of fresh-baked croissants in the morning and sharing a cold beer at the end of a long day’s ride with other like-minded participants might have also played a role.

The group will be cycling approximately 100 km/day for eight days – a 700 km journey through the battlefields and cemeteries of the First and Second World Wars as part of the inaugural Wounded Warriors Canada Battlefield Ride.

The tour will take in the sights at Juno Beach this Friday, June 6 – the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, and wind up at Vimy Ridge, site of the towering Canadian First World War memorial.

Lowe and a half-dozen other veterans are leading 158 cyclists – civilians who will represent and honour each Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Lowe, 28, grew up in Cloverdale and now lives in Abbotsford. Last year, he rode from Paris to London, a 563-km journey with other combat veterans on the Battlefield Bike Ride, a U.K. initiative.

He was sponsored by Wounded Warriors Canada, an organization that helps Canadian forces members and reservists who have been injured or wounded, with a focus on mental health.

As the only rider from B.C., Lowe and five Canadian comrades joined 300 British, American and European combat veterans on a ride across France and England.

He’d initially been apprehensive; as he trained for the ride, he didn’t know how he’d fit in with the other veterans.

“You think that your experience is quite unique,” said Lowe, who served with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry’s First Battalion in Afghanistan as part of reconstruction team Task Force 309 in 2009/2010.

“But the biggest thing is learning that all of our experiences are very similar.”

http://webpapersadmin.bcnewsgroup.com/portals/uploads/cloverdale/.DIR288/wRet.CplJohnLowe.jpgOn the 2013 ride, he met other veterans who had served in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, and even Bosnia and Kosovo.

Meeting and talking with other veterans made him realize they shared much in common, even though some spent their deployment in headquarters and not necessarily as an infantry soldier on the front lines, like he did.

“My experience [with post traumatic stress] is from being there and seeing it happen to people,” he told The Reporter earlier this week. “But for them, it was the helplessness they felt.”

Riding through the battlefields and First and Second World War cemeteries was cathartic.

“At the beginning of the trip, the leaders said, ‘You’re going to laugh. You’re going to cry, and all these emotions are going to happen. It turned out to be really kind of liberating to be in all these places along the way.”

He and the other riders were grounded in the knowledge that they were traveling through battlefields where many of their grandfathers had fought.

Lowe couldn’t help but wonder if one day future generations will ride through Afghanistan in the same way.

“Probably not,” he said.

Lowe has now reached the point where he’s comfortable sharing his stories and helping others to learn, and to heal.

He credits the support of Wounded Warriors Canada.

This time around, the riders will conclude their bike journey at the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, where there will be a ceremony; 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Last year, Lowe laid a wreath on the memorial before the start of the ride.

“That’s a part of Canadian soil right there,” he said. “It makes me proud.”

No matter what the critics will say in 15 years about Canada’s role in Afghanistan, Lowe will know he’s a part of the lineage of soldiers who have served their country.

“This trip is about realizing you’re not by yourself,” he said.

“Spending time in those places you realize, wow, that experience is shared and has been shared for decades. It makes me proud to be part of that story.”

Participants in the Wounded Warriors Canada Battlefield Ride 2014 are raising awareness and funds in support of Canada’s ill and injured armed forces members and their families.

– To lend support or follow the team, visit www.bbr14.ca.

Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ivan Scott. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Surrey mayor enters word war with speakers, councillor

McCallum calls brief recess after asking two speakers to leave chambers

Montreal-based writer Michael Foy grew up in the Newton area of Surrey. (submitted photo)
Surrey-raised writer Foy really loves to set his short stories in the city

His latest is published in ‘Canadian Shorts II’ collection

Officers with the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team were at a White Rock home Tuesday (Oct. 20) to assist Vancouver Police Department with execution of a search warrant. (Contributed photo)
ERT response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

The site of the former Rona store in Newton could be home to a park and civic amenities, in the 6900-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Google Street View)
Surrey buying 16 properties in Newton for parkland, civic amenities

Mayor Doug McCallum says project will be ‘fast-tracked’

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
White Rock dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan arrives at Luxton Hall to cast their votes in advance polls for the provincial election in Langford, B.C., Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Pandemic election prompts voter suppression claims by B.C. Liberals

‘These emergencies require in us a maturity that has been lacking in politics for so long’

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of UBC geoscientists discovered the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read