Marching with purpose

The final cut for this year’s team was made in early June. Here’s a list of this year’s participants: Lt(N) Haley van Poorten, Team Leader; PO1 Rayon Murdock, 2IC; Cpl Rhys Murphy, medic; Capt Gary Leblanc; Lt(N) Rebecca Granham; A/SLt Ashvin Chawla; CPO2 Armand Reelick; WO Nathan Verhoog; MS Kevin Simons; LS Luke Foebe; Cpl Javier Sanchez-Bringas. Alternates: Lt(N) Mike McKenna, and A/SLt Soheil Nasira.

The final cut for this year’s team was made in early June. Here’s a list of this year’s participants: Lt(N) Haley van Poorten, Team Leader; PO1 Rayon Murdock, 2IC; Cpl Rhys Murphy, medic; Capt Gary Leblanc; Lt(N) Rebecca Granham; A/SLt Ashvin Chawla; CPO2 Armand Reelick; WO Nathan Verhoog; MS Kevin Simons; LS Luke Foebe; Cpl Javier Sanchez-Bringas. Alternates: Lt(N) Mike McKenna, and A/SLt Soheil Nasira.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

If you frequent the Galloping Goose Trail between Sooke and Victoria you may have noticed military members wearing CADPAT and rucksacks marching in formation. The group have been marching virtually three days per week since February, logging over 700 kilometres, to prepare for a march of a lifetime – the Four Days International Marches Nijmegen.

After battling the sweat and blisters of training, Maritime Forces Pacific’s Nijmegen marching team is ready to put boots on the ground in the Netherlands July 17 to 20.

The 13-member team includes two alternate marchers, and will be led by Lieutenant (Navy) Haley van Poorten.

The annual event, now in its 102nd year, involves four days of 40 kilometre marches through the Dutch countryside. This year’s event is expected to draw approximately 47,000 participants.

“Marching long distances in military boots takes its toll on your body and everyone reacts differently, but the most common injuries are blisters on toes and heals, and repetitive stress injuries in the ankle, hip, knee and shin,” said Lt(N) Haley van Poorten. “But it is to be expected, we have a positive attitude and deal with the injuries and any of the setbacks in a smart and open way, because trying to hide them means they will just get worse.”

To cope with the tedium and build camaraderie the team often sings as they march.

They aren’t the only Canadian military team heading to the Netherlands; 13 other CAF teams will march.

Lt(N) van Poorten and her team members are well aware some of the physical suffering experienced in training is nothing compared to the horrors of the Second World War experienced by soldiers and the people of the Netherlands. Three members of the team can trace their family lineage back to the Netherlands including Lt(N) van Poorten.

Her father Robert van Poorten moved to Canada with his parents and siblings after the war in 1957, but during the war his family lived through a treacherous situation. As the Nazis rounded up Jews to be sent to concentration camps, his parents hid a neighbouring Jewish family in their attic until the war’s end.

The Jewish family had owned a toy store in Amersfoort and as a show of gratitude to the van Poorten family, they gave the children toys for several years after the war.

“I am proud to be representing Canada, but it’s going to be a heart-felt personal trip for me,” said Lt(N) van Poorten, who works in Ship Systems Readiness for Canadian Fleet Pacific. “I’m very excited to be going back to the home country of my father again and I’m hoping that some of my relatives come out to cheer us on and meet the team.”

There’s also a personal connection for Chief Petty Officer Second Class Armand Reelick. The Deputy Base Chief Petty Officer was born in 100 Mile House, B.C., but his mother and father were both born in Holland and moved to Canada after the Second World War. CPO2 Reelick’s father now lives in Holland, along with several aunts and uncles, who he is expecting to see during the march.

“I’ve known about the march since I was 18 and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Chief Reelick.

Lt(N) van Poorten noted that teammate Warrant Officer Nathan Verhoog also has personal ties to Holland while other team members have grandparents and great-grandparents who fought in the Second World War.

Three days ahead of the event, the team will visit some of Europe’s most famous battle sites. Included on their itinerary are Vimy Ridge and Mons, Belgium, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and Groesbeek Cemetery near Nijmegen.

“There are several members on this team who have never been to Europe or a Second World War or First World War battle site,” said Lt(N) Van Poorten. “By being in these places you truly recognize the enormity of these conflicts. I have already had this experience and am changed because of it, so I’m looking forward to seeing others broaden their understanding.”

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