Materiel Group member completes journey for service dogs

Dan Connolly
Arrival at Santiago on October 28, 2018. Photo: Dan Connolly

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After 26 days, Dan Connolly with the Material Group completed Spain’s 800-kilometer Camino de Santiago de Compostela on October 27, 2018.

Dan dedicated the walk to his father Frank Millar Connolly, a veteran of the Second World War, in order to raise awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and to raise money for the Canadian Veteran Service Dog Unit (CVSDU). With donations, he has raised over $2,000 towards the training of a service dog.

Dan Connolly’s Camino began in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crossed the Pyranees mountains, and continued on a centuries-old pilgrimage route across Northern Spain.

“I travelled with people from around the world experiencing Spain’s spectacular beauty, rich history and amazing people, in a very unique way,” said Dan. “It really was a life-changing experience and I would urge anyone to do their own Camino for whatever reason.”

Donations can be made through the Frank Millar Connolly RCNVR Memorial Camino campaign page until the end of December, or with an e-pledge (internal link) to the National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign (NDWCC) for the CVSDU.

Image gallery

  • Dan Connolly
  • Dan Connolly at Cape Finisterre
  • Dan Connolly

One last entry, written on the train between Santiago and Madrid on my way home

By Dan Connolly

On my Camino, I carried my grandfather’s rosary. Like my dad, he had his own war (1914-1918), and according to family history, lost his faith on the battlefields of France.

Like so many other kids of his generation, Grampa Connolly lied about his age and enlisted at 15. By the end of the war, and his 19th year, he had been gassed and wounded on two separate occasions, and experienced the horrors of life at the front. While both he and my dad were proud of their service, they were both haunted by their experiences.

There is a tradition of leaving an object along the Camino as a symbolic way of letting go, or to honour someone you love. The rosary had accompanied me along my path from St. Jean Pied de Port, across Spain, all the way to Cape Finisterre, The End of the Earth, as the Romans called it.

My first visit to the cape had been one of celebration, the self-satisfaction of walking over 800 kilometres across Spain, posing victoriously in front of the ocean, and the sense of accomplishment that entails.

The next day, I still hadn’t decided what to do with the rosary. Do I keep it? Do I leave it somewhere? And if I do, where? I found myself again walking up the three kilometres from town to the cape, still not sure about why, but feeling compelled to go. This time, there was none of the excitement and exuberance of the previous day. There was instead a deep sense of peace, watching the sun rise over the ocean as I made my way to the end of the earth.

As I walked up the stone steps at the cape, I suddenly saw a post in the ground. It was painted white with black lettering in English which read, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” and I knew this was the place. This was why I came here. I left the rosary on the post, and as I stood there, these words came to me:

For anyone who has suffered the ravages of war either directly or indirectly, May Peace Prevail on Earth.

For the families torn apart by the effects of war either directly or indirectly, May Peace Prevail on Earth.

May those who have lost loved ones to war either directly or indirectly, May Peace Prevail on Earth.

For those who have been robbed of their innocence and faith by war, either directly or indirectly, May Peace Prevail on Earth.

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

I am very grateful to the many people who have contributed to the Canadian Veteran Service Dog Unit (CVSDU), and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet contributed to please do so.

Image gallery

  • Rosary on pole
  • Frank Millar Connolly
  • Private Albert Edward Connolly, second from left
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