Like most great ideas, Operation Pegasus was born during a conversation between friends.
Rob Mcneil is a veteran, and like most veterans, dealing with mental health issues like PTSD is a part of life.
“We [he and other organizers] were sitting around talking one day. We’re doing OK. We’re not doing great; we have our own demons that we deal with,” he told My Comox Valley Now.
“But wouldn’t it be great if we could get everybody here and give them a bit of the medicine that’s helping us get through it?”
The “medicine” he was referring to is a bit unorthodox.
Far from any doctor’s office, it involves a lot more adrenaline. Skydiving.
“Skydiving helps because it gets you out of your comfort zone it just kind of breaks down the walls,” said Gavan Jones, one of the directors behind Operation Pegasus Jump to CHEK News.
Once those walls are down, the space is open to be filled.
More than just skydiving, Operation Pegasus is about fostering connection.
“People reconnect, and then the talks for mental health kind of start happening from there,” said Jones.
“It’s like a grassroots movement where veterans are starting different things like Pegasus to try and help. It’s becoming the veterans helping the veterans now.”
With a mental professional along for the ride to provide some extra support, operation Pegasus’s purpose is ultimately to try and curb the suicide rate among local veterans.
Participants spend the week on-site and bond over learning how to skydive, with the goal of completing five jumps by the end of the week.
“We’re trying to create basically a safety net. We have a lot of veterans that are so tired of trying to deal with the government and VA to get benefits or just to get the help they need … These people here actually care about each other …. they know each other. They’ve shared that and bonded over that experience, which for us is skydiving.”
Operation Pegasus Jump went ahead for the first time last year. This year, three times as many participants, veterans and first responders have signed up to attend in Campbell River.
They’ve just wrapped their first week-long session and are midway through the second. They’ll have their final wrap party on the 17th.
You can check out some incredible footage of everyone cheering on jumpers below and access more info on future sessions here.