Walking the Camino for Veterans Aid


August 28, 2019

Two women veterans – Karrina and Stephanie – are taking a step back from their busy jobs in Afghanistan to walk the centuries-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in support of Veterans Aid, the charity they both admire.

‘We are choosing to support VA because they deal directly with those in need, providing immediate, practical support to ex-servicemen and women in crisis.’

As veterans who are both still working in Afghanistan, we understand the importance of the veteran community – regardless of age, ethnicity, rank, gender or length of service.’

We both agree that one of the biggest humanities issues, in both our respective countries, is homelessness and feel like Veterans Aid are really tackling this issue head on, providing services to those that are most vulnerable. We hope that we can accomplish our personal goals while bringing more visibility to the great work Veterans Aid does.’

Karrina served for nine years in the Royal Navy before starting the job in Afghanistan as a contractor in support of NATO Forces. Her wife Stephanie served in the US Army Guard from 2005 until 2018. They met and married in Afghanistan where they are both now working as contractors.

The challenges of Camino

The walk was something they have been thinking about doing for a long time. Finally they have found the time in their busy schedules to take up the challenge. 

‘The job roles we have and our location see Stephanie and myself working 12 hours a day, 7 days per week, for anywhere between 90-270 days straight. The hostile environment added to the stresses of our workload requires us to decompress when we have the opportunity.’

While walking vast distances each day for the entirety of our time off might not seem like a break for some, for us it will be a time to think and reflect. This challenge is physically demanding rather than mentally, and therefore different to the challenges we face in our working lives.’

CEO of Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy said:  

‘Pilgrimages have always been deeply personal journeys allowing the pilgrim the chance to re-energise mentally, physical and spiritually.  So it is truly touching that Karrina and Stephanie have chosen to walk in aid of our veterans.’

The enormity of the task before them reminded me of the words of James Elroy Flecker which reflect the VA ethos so perfectly: “We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go. Always a little further…”

Route

Karrina and Stephanie’s chosen route will be the Camino Francés, which stretches 800 km (nearly 500 miles). They are starting on 29 August from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port near Biarritz in France and heading to Santiago in Spain. They hope to complete the trail in 30 days.

‘The time limit is our biggest issue. Most who embark on this journey are able to enjoy several rest days along the route; because of the requirements of our jobs we cannot afford this luxury, as we need to be back in Afghanistan.’

We hope we won’t sustain any injuries and will have the stamina to keep this up for over 30 days.’

About Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, otherwise known as ‘The Way of St James’, is one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in the world and is a World Heritage Site.  It forms a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. It is a journey millions of pilgrims have completed over thousands of years.

Camino de Santiago Trail

To make donations to Camino walk in aid of Veterans Aid, please go to Karrina and Stephanie’s Just Giving page: http://ow.ly/Jj9h30pk6ks