Although Kimberly McKerry’s father died last autumn, she feels like she lost her dad 14 years ago.
It was April 24, 2003, when Philip McKerry, a 25-year RCMP officer, was called to a property south of Spruce Grove, where a man had ended up after threatening to kill himself and his three children.
The man returned the children home, got back in his car and barrelled north down Range Road 272, aiming straight for Philip McKerry’s police cruiser. The corporal jumped out of the car into the ditch, crushing several vertebrae. He also spent the rest of his life with post-traumatic stress disorder, lurching at sudden noises, and sleeping only a couple of hours each night.
“I think a lot of people never really realized it was there, but if you knew him, it was, and I think that’s the nature of post-traumatic stress disorder — it’s something a lot of people can hide really well,” Kimberly McKerry, 27, said.
Now living with some regret she didn’t make enough effort to understand her dad’s condition while he was alive, McKerry will cycle from London, England, to Vimy Ridge in France to raise awareness and money for people with PTSD.
It’s a fitting tribute to her father, since the pair had talked about one day visiting historic Canadian battle sites in Europe together.
McKerry stumbled across the ride after meeting someone involved with Wounded Warriors Canada at her father’s funeral last September.
Hardly an avid cyclist, she sent the link to her brother, asking, “Do you think this is crazy?”
Starting June 9, McKerry will be one of about 150 Canadians riding 600 kilometres across parts of England, Belgium and France, visiting historic war sites including Flanders Field and Passchendaele. The ride takes nine days, and Wounded Warriors expects it to raise more than $1.8 million to support 13 programs.
While raising $4,150, she’s logged 90 minutes a day on a stationary bike to build up her endurance for the ride. When the snow melted, she bought a new bicycle and began training in the river valley, so she’s ready for the hills.
“I’m trying to make this year the year of me doing things that scare me,” McKerry said.
Although the physical feat is intimidating, she’s looking forward to her first trip to Europe, and meeting up with some other riders who knew her father.
Philip died suddenly at age 60 — doctors believe it was a heart attack.
He was in physical and mental pain every day during the last 14 years of his life, his daughter said.
The stress eroded her parents’ marriage, and changed how the family interacted with Philip, said Kimberly.
One time, whens she was a pre-teen, she rounded a corner too quickly, and he said to her, “If I had a gun right now, I would have shot you.”
He had a heightened sense of awareness about his surroundings. He needed to know who was in the house, and where they were.
Throughout his illness, Philip continued volunteer work with the army cadets, and maintained a wide network of friendships. About 300 people attended his funeral, McKerry said.
“I can’t even imagine what my dad went through in the last 15 years of his life.”
The Battlefield Bike Ride leaves London on June 9, and is scheduled to reach Vimy Ridge June 17.