Invictus Profile: MCpl (Retd) Sandy Bate
Master Corporal (Retired) Sandy Bate’s goal as she prepares for Invictus Games 2017 is to take a fraction of the steps her grandfather did when he began his journey to the battlefield of Vimy Ridge.
“William Davis Bate was my grandfather. He was 16 when he tried to enlist in Carleton Place, Ontario where he grew up. The recruiting officer there knew William’s father and told him he was too young. So my grandfather walked all the way to Petawawa and signed up with the Royal Canadian Regiment in the 80th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. That was in 1915,” explains Sandy, who was a Resource Management Support clerk throughout her career with the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
There’s some 140 km worth of footsteps between Carleton Place and Petawawa. The length of the St. George golf course, where Sandy will compete during the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto this September, is 7014 yards or approximately six and a half kilometres in length. Both Sandy’s and her grandfather’s distances reveal the quiet determination that is part of the Bate genetic makeup.
“I told my physical therapist that my goal is to walk the entire course – no golf carts. I’m working towards walking 10 kilometres now – but golf courses are different, there’s more uphill and downhill,” she explains. Sandy is the last in a line of four generations of military service, which began with her great-grandfather who fought in the Boer War.
After 21 years and one day of full-time service, Sandy was medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 2009 due to injuries to her knees and neck. Only two years earlier, in 2007, Sandy had been inducted into the CAF’s Sports Honour Roll for Multiple Sports, as competitive sports had always been a way of life for her.
“I played softball, ball hockey, broom ball, ice hockey, and golf. I did quite well when I won my first regional competition in golf—from then on, I was hooked,” she said. In 2007, Sandy competed in golf at the International Military Sports Council, better known by its French acronym CISM, and was part of the team that took home silver.
It was a collection of health challenges that removed sports, as well as her career, from Sandy’s life. “After I was released, I had difficulty finding a doctor and then waited for a referral. I eventually had a total knee replacement in 2013 but I couldn’t walk after surgery, even with a cane, because of scar tissue. They replaced the same knee the next year and once again it became locked up with scar tissue.”
After her surgery in 2014, it took Sandy two years of physical therapy to be able to walk without a cane. Her lonely battle for health brought periods of depression. “I always felt off-balance. I play left-handed golf and my left leg is the bad one. I wasn’t able to work and I couldn’t even ride a bike. I was depressed.” she explained.
Then, on the last day of a trip to Florida, Sandy saw a poster regarding the Invictus Games which was held in Orlando in 2016. The next Games would be in Toronto in 2017.
“When I got home and looked online I read all about the Games and golf was on the list of sports! So, I thought ‘What the heck? I will see what happens’ and applied through Soldier On,” she said. Sandy made the team and immediately began her training to play golf and to walk the full course.
Since its inception in 2007, Soldier On has dispersed more than $5 million, helping more than 3200 Veterans and serving members who have sustained physical injuries, mental illnesses or a combination of both. The program provides sporting and recreational equipment and access to training and instructors, supporting members in a wide range of structured activities from alpine skiing to fishing and adventure expeditions. The program, which manages Team Canada – Invictus Games 2017, also sent teams to the London (2014) and Orlando (2016) Invictus Games.
Sandy spent the day following the team’s first training camp, April 9, with her family, watching the anniversary ceremony of Vimy Ridge. “It was a very emotional day for us. We miss our grandfather and father,” Sandy reflected.
Sandy’s grandfather, William, was made a sniper shortly after enlisting because “he was a good shot,” said Sandy. He fought in the Battle of the Somme and quickly learned to pee in his handkerchief to prevent the deadly effects from being gassed by the enemy. He fought in Ypres where he was buried alive and gassed again. It was at Vimy where William was injured.
“He was in a shell hole that filled up with water and he nearly drowned because he was shot in the leg. He was saved by a stretcher-bearer who found him,” Sandy said. Although his sleeping hours were interrupted with night sweats for the rest of his life, William returned to Canada at the age of 21 and went on to marry and have a family.
It’s that same resilience that Sandy will carry with her as she steps onto the St. George golf course, where she will once again represent her country.
“For me, I am just starting over. Learning to walk again, learning to golf again. I think I can do this. I needed some motivation and being a part of Team Canada is great motivation—I can do this.”
Sandy Bate is dedicating her performance at the Invictus Games in Toronto to her brother Bobby and her mother Mary Ann, who have both died recently.
For more information, visit the Team Canada at the Invictus Games – Toronto 2017 website.
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