The Invictus Games will take place in Toronto from September 23-30. Ill or injured service members, including 90 active or retired Canadian service members, will compete in 11 adaptive competitions. In the leadup to the games, we’re excited to introduce some of the athletes who will represent Canada.
Team Canada’s participation in the 2017 Invictus Games is supported by the Canadian Armed Forces’ Soldier On Program in partnership with Invictus Games Toronto.
Jason Israel has served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 15 years, service which includes three tours in Afghanistan. At the Invictus Games, Jason will represent Canada as a sprinter in the 100, 200, 400, 1500m, and relay events, an opportunity he describes as “…an honour to represent Canada in a different way other than a service member defending our country.”
Founded by Prince Harry, the mission of the Invictus Games is to honour and support those who have faced adversity in serving their country through the rehabilitative power of sport.
Jason is one of many service members for whom that adversity has come in the form of an Occupational Stress Injury (OSI). According to Veterans Affairs Canada, an OSI is classified as, “…any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties performed while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces or as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
As Jason describes his experience, “Being diagnosed with an OSI, I have been challenged in several different ways. My day to day functioning has changed significantly and I have been through a lot of support systems to make the best of my situation.”
Running became one of the tools by which Jason gradually found himself stepping out of the post-trauma mindset. He began with long runs “…when I needed to clear my head or burn off energy.” Even so, the side effects of medication and trauma itself were still present.
Support systems were vital to helping Jason navigate those obstacles. First, there was his family, his wife of 10 years Amanda and children Jakob (8), Grace (7), and Kaleb (3).
The opportunity to represent Canada at the Invictus Games also provided Jason with the purpose and motivation he needed to counter the sometimes draining process of dealing with injuries. Jason says, “I frequently realized how easy it is to regress toward the negative side effects, but having a focus can provide a source of motivation to move forward.”
Further support came from training camps held at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in BC and Kingston. The experience of both camps allowed members of Team Canada to train together twice a day, eat together, and build solidarity in working through their respective journeys as athletes and individuals.
Jason’s relationship with running was also strengthened. According to Jason, “Overcoming the effects of my OSI has been difficult but through my running I am becoming more aware of what my mind and body need.”
Jason hopes that his recovery can serve as an example and symbol of hope for fellow injured service members. Jason’s message to them is, “There will be ups and downs, easier days and harder days, but know that there’s support through several different programs. Seek out the help you need so that you can make the best of your situation.”
When soldiers engage in battles in life and on duty, so too do their families. The road to the Invictus Games is not just about healing individuals, but families and communities.
When it comes to the impact of the Invictus Games and Soldier On, Jason says, “I would like Canadians to know that the families have also seen great changes in their lives. My family has felt so much appreciation and support, more than ever before, during the lead up to these games.”
- Ravi Singh