This is the start of my story about myself and how Forging Ahead came into existence. To tell how this organization started I must tell you about my story first.
The name is Cameron Bennett; that’s me as a young kid on my second tour in the army in 2002. I joined the army reserves at a young age in 1998 and within a year my transfer to the regular forces Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was complete.
Over those 20 years, I was a busy man living all over the country and gaining the chances to travel the globe and gather experiences that no one could ever see or comprehend unless you have served your country.
Everything is under control...
In 2012, Canada decided it didn’t want to play in the sand box anymore and stepped back into a training support role. My body was starting to shut down from running it on red-line for too many years. The timing was perfect and I jumped onto the AirForce side of things, becoming a certified Aviation Technician (AME Civilian side).
Being in the back with the gear was a great feeling for a while, one of my best memories is being an escort for the UFC members visiting the base for an appreciation day.
Unfortunately, the utopia and reduced stress life I was living seemed to fade away, and I could not understand how I could be in such a good spot but still feel so upset and fearful that imminent doom was coming. My performance started to plummet as these intense feelings turned into constant and never ending anxiety, panic and a giant list of other feelings.
In all my life and all the life threatening situations I have experienced, I never thought that my mind would turn into my worst enemy.
All of my training and experiences I have received would not help me in this battle. For in fact, they were the exact things that would cause the illness to get worse.
All my life, I was taught to hide weaknesses that will make you freeze. If you freeze and shut down, you and your buddy die, because you have failed.
Never give up, never stop fighting and never show weakness in the sign of the enemy. Too bad, it was that training that caused and exaggerated this new enemy.
Fast forward ahead a few years, and add in a declining ability to work in any situation with a severely reduced fear of authority, discipline and chain of command.
I was medically released in December of 2018 after 20 years of service. Still, in my stubbornness, I thought that I was amazing and “gonna nail it” after release. I went out and got myself a diploma in occupational health and safety and a whole bunch of other safety classes…Yup, I found out that I am still a smart man, but any form of conventional office work was out of the question.
Political correctness and HR type jobs are not in my capacity anymore. My mind was not capable and ready to handle any stress load.
This was the moment I realized that my brain was like an 50 amp stress capacitor hooked up to a 5 amp fuse. Any form of stress popped the breaker. I truly believed that I was a bad horrible person and lashed out at everyone for it. I needed a complete reset.
Back to Reality
One night, I was in a common angry state, pacing back and forth in some heightened emotional state in a memory loop of some random military scenario experienced where our lives would be in danger for no other reason than incompetence or arrogance of an officer or NCO.
All of a sudden I am stopped in my tracks, and I feel a sharp pain in my chest.
I am immediately snapped back to reality, and I see my dog, Bishop, standing on his hind legs, claws in my chest frantically licking my face.
Even as his hind legs lose strength, and he starts to sit down, he still will not stop licking my face. He has dragged me down to my knees and is still digging into my chest and trying to make me feel better.
How could this animal care about such a mean, broken person. Then it hit me, He doesn’t care about words; he doesn’t care about anything that humans deal with; he only knows a kind man that has loved, cherished and cared for him since he was 8 weeks old.
He saw I was hurting and wanted to take the pain away.
Maybe I am a good person?
How could such a pure animal have such love for someone that is so horrible?
New Path & New Beginnings
I started a new path. I began to research Jordan Peterson and a few other great people.
I enrolled in DBT classes at OSI clinics and began to be more in tune to listening to my body and not the immediate emotion. After viewing a friend who picked up bladesmithing on social media and how much he liked it, I thought I would give it a try.
I found an artistic blacksmithing class held at an art school and jumped on the opportunity.
I finally saw the glimmering small spec of starlight at the end of the tunnel. Sleep came easier. Concentration and dedication were restored in myself when I was in front of an anvil with a hammer in my hand. I was a master of metal, the element that has allowed humans to create our civilization is now bending and shaping to my will.
No more fear; no more doubt; no more anxiety.
It is only myself, my tools and the metal.
At that moment Forging Ahead was born. I swore that I would rebuild myself through artistic blacksmithing, and I swore that I will help others rebuild themselves in the same way.