Wounds of war won’t hold soldier back

="WO Kevin Legg"

WO Kevin Legg takes a rest after the MARPAC Nijmegen team completes a 40 kilometers trek from Roche Cove to CFB Esquimalt on Friday, June 27.

Every painful step, every laboured breath will draw WO Kevin Legg, 42, closer to his dream of completing the Four Days International Marches Nijmegen next week.

The soldier is unlike any of his MARPAC teammates.

He marches with a barrage of physical scars incurred during his tour in Afghanistan seven years ago, including damaged lungs and a permanent limp in his left leg.

But tenacity and perseverance during tryouts earned WO Legg a coveted spot on the MARPAC team.

“He’s a pretty stellar dude,” said MARPAC marching team leader, Lt(N) Paul LePrieur.

“He is the epitome of what Nijmegen is all about. He is so inspirational for so many others doubting themselves while going through rehab.”

WO Legg’s story of survival began moments after he flicked a switch on an air-handling unit he was repairing while deployed in Afghanistan. After that everything in his world went black.

“The last thing I can remember was burning and then waking up in the hospital,” he recalls.

“When the explosion occurred I was working on the ground because it was an unusually hot day. It was close to 50 Celsius so I was sitting that way because a fan underneath the unit was cooling me.”

A locally employed individual who worked on the military base had planted an Improvised Explosive Device on the unit.

WO Legg says if he weren’t sitting down at the moment the bomb detonated, he wouldn’t be alive today.

Although it didn’t take his life, the explosion changed him forever.

The lower portion of his lungs were burned and permanently damaged, and he says the resulting pulmonary edema (build up of fluid in his lungs) could have been fatal.

He now depends on a Salamol Inhaler to help him breath, can no longer runlong distances or play the sports he loves, and he is still incapable of drawing a full breath.

His left leg is now shorter than his right due to loss of bone and tendons in his knee.

He needs orthotics to walk.  

Sticky notes cover his office desk and computer in the Real Property’s Hood Building.

He says the little reminders help him compensate for short-term memory loss.  

He believes he has overcome the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that for years brought on anxiety, depression and mood swings.

WO Legg says he could have easily walked away from his military career on a medical release.

Instead he chose to honour his 20-year contract with the CF.

The recovery process has been difficult, and he admits to spending many moments asking the elusive question “Why me?”

When the MARPAC Team completes the last steps of its journey in Nijmegen and enters St. Annastraat Street they will be greeted by a crowd of thousands.

The team will receive cheers and an outpouring of appreciation due to Canada’s role in the liberation of Holland over 70 years ago.

His own struggles have given WO Legg deeper insight into the sacrifices of Second World War soldiers.

“What it means to me is taking a walk through history and honouring the people that made this country: the veterans,” he says.

“This march is so much a part of that and will cap my career.”

Peter Mallett
Staf writer

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