Retired Captain Medric "Cous" Cousineau, a former Air Force Navigator, was seriously injured more than two decades ago during a daring rescue mission, off of the coast of Newfoundland. Cousineau received the Star of Courage which recognizes acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of great Peril, for the daring helicopter rescue of two injured American Fishermen. He bravely volunteered to be lowered to the deck of a distressed US Long liner fishing boat to rescue the 2 men during a violent storm on the 6th of October, 1986. But the injuries resulted in serious mental health issues with which he has struggled for more than 26 years.
Recently, however, he has seen vast improvements in his situation- improvements that his family credits to his service dog and partner, Thai. He is embarking on a new phase of his recovery: raising funds to help other Canadian Veterans gain access to the canine assistance that has made a difference in his own life.
Cous was paired with Thai, in August 2012 through the Canine Assistance and Rehabilitation Services Program (CARES) located in Concordia , Kansas.
Thai was made possible thru the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy fund, specifically Branch 164 in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. Cousineau is deeply appreciative of the support he received from the Legion.
CARES dedicated volunteers breed raise and train hundreds of dogs as service and therapy dogs. After whelping, the puppies are raised by a cadre of foster families, before intensive training at one of several correctional facilities in Kansas. For Cousineau, one of the most important events in his life was meeting the prisoner who had spent six and a half months training the dog for her role. After they completed their basic training and certification, their public access test and a few months of intensive public training, Thai and Cousineau began appearing in public to continue to advocate for service dogs for veterans who often battle horrible injuries sustained in the line of duty. Many of these injuries are invisible and carry a huge stigma.
Long Walk to Sanity
Upon returning home to Nova Scotia, the team continued their training through a series of increasing long walk that eventually totalled more than a thousand kilometers. Cousineau calls these his "long walk to Sanity". In early January, a long walk with Thai, and Cousineau's wife, Jocelyn, resulted in the idea of using a "Long Walk" to raise public awareness and funds to help other veterans. Though the long walk is a daunting challenge, says Cousineau, it pales in comparison to the battles mental health issues pose within society and veteran's communities.
Paws Fur Thought.
Cousineau's Long walk aimed at raising awareness and funds beginning August 1, 2013. It will continue for 50 days, averaging a half marathon (about 21 kilometers) in distance per day. The Long Walk is scheduled to end 19 September in Ottawa, with a fascinating historical walk on the final day. He hopes to be joined that day by a cadre of those wishing to join in and make "Paws-itive Outcomes".
Cousineau's route will have two major sections the first part of the journey will be from Canadian Forces Base Shearwater in Dartmouth, NS to the Naval Memorial in Point Pleasant Park and then onward to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in NB.
After a two day rest and travel break, with a very pivotal stop in Montreal, Cousineau will begin the second part of the Long walk at Sunnybrook Veterans Memorial Hospital in Toronto, Ont. Thai and he will walk to Ottawa, through the Ontario communities of Newmarket, Peterborough, Marmora, Trenton, Belleville, Kingston and Smiths Falls. During this time, the Canadian Army Veterans Riding Club, which includes 83 units and more than 4,800 dues paying members, will support the Long Walk.
Cousineau's goal is to raise money for 50 Dogs in 50 Days for 50 Veterans. This will support the provision of service, therapy and other canine assistance to help treat veterans suffering from Mental Health issues. Funds will be raised mainly from three sources, "Dogs for Dogs" barbeques, dog tag sales, and donations.
Cousineau says he hopes the initiative spreads throughout the country. In fact during the walk, he hopes to recruit a team of volunteers to continue the work while he returns home to "Keep calm and walk the Dog" while pursuing his hobbies of photography, reading, gardening , motorcycling and playing the occasional bridge game.
The assistance and friendship of Brenda Andersen, of Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia and her guide dog, Noble, were instrumental in Cousineau's recovery. As part of the team's training for the Long Walk, Andersen, Cousineau and their Service Dogs will be participating in the Bluenose Half Marathon on the 19th of May 2013, Funds raised during this awareness campaign will be used to fund the Long Walk helping others to acquire Service Dogs and continue on their own personal "Long Walk to Sanity".
Medric "Cous" Cousineau Biographical Notes:
- Graduated Royal Military College of Canada, 1983.
- Received his Air Navigator wings, October of 1984
- Located HS443, then located at 12 wing Shearwater as a Tactical Co-ordinator. His primary role was Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) with a Secondary role of Search and Rescue.
- In October of 1986 he was a member of the helairdet onboard Her Majesties Canadian Ship, Nipigon
- In October of 1986, he was involved in the rescue of two American fisherman hundreds of miles from Cape Race, Newfoundland.
- In November 1987, the Governor General announced that Cousineau would receive the Star of Courage for his efforts. The pilot, Hans Kleeman received the Meritorious Service Cross for his extraordinary flying skills on the night of the rescue, while the remainder of the crew were awarded the Chief of Defence Staff commendation.
- As a result of his injuries, Cousineau left the forces in 1991, his final posting as a flight instructor at HT406 Maritime Helicopter Training Squadron at 12 Wing.
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.