Army chaplains marching 800 kilometres to show support for N.S.

·2 min read

Soldiers at CFB Gagetown have been marching to show solidarity with the people of Nova Scotia after several tragedies hit the province this summer.

Teams of them have been undertaking what is known as a rucksack challenge.

The goal is to walk 800 kilometres, roughly the distance from the base to Halifax and back, all while carrying a 75 pound rucksack.

Harold Boomhower said the original idea for the challenge came as the base's chaplain unit tried to keep a sense of togetherness during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Boomhower, a former personal trainer, thought physical exercise would have the additional benefit of keeping them fit.

But the length of the march was all about showing solidarity with Nova Scotia.

In addition to the worldwide pandemic, Nova Scotia also had a mass shooting, with a gunman killing 22 people, and the crash of a Snowbird plane, killing Capt. Jenn Casey of Halifax.

"I said, 'well, due to everything that's transpiring down in our neighbouring province I think that it would be a great sign of camaraderie and a sign of respect and a sign to show our neighbouring province that we're thinking about them, that they're on our thoughts and to really put our money where our mouth is and to walk to Halifax and back'," said Boomhower.

In keeping with the times, the challenge is being done virtually, with the chaplains marching independently.

Boomhower said it has helped him cope with the challenges of being a chaplain during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Even when I was coming to work on a daily basis and not being able to get to the gym, really my second home ... it was hard," said Boomhower.

"So to get back to something that I could focus on and be challenging against other like–minded people, for me it was a great focal point to take my focus off the pandemic and what was going on."

While some teams are quickly approaching the finish line, Boomhower says the military's belief on "no one left behind" means that whoever wins will keep marching, contributing kilometres to the other teams challenges.