Detective Steve Henkel was among four Toronto Police Service (TPS) members who took part in this year’s four-day Nijmegen marches in the Netherlands.
The world’s largest multiple-day marching event, held annually in mid-July, attracts civilians and law enforcement officers from around the globe.
This is the second time Henkel has taken part in the four-day march that span 120 to 200 km.
“I did it two years ago to celebrate the event’s 100th anniversary and loved it,” he said. “I have been to the Netherlands a few times and just love the country and its people who are extremely warm and friendly. As soon as you identify as Canadian, they throw down the welcome mat. They are such great hosts and Canadians are near and dear to their hearts.”
Participants walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometres daily, depending on their age and gender and, on completion, receive a royally approved medal.
The 55-kilometre portion was specially reinstated for the 100th anniversary celebration in 2016.
“I walked in the 55-kilometre section the last time,” said Henkel. “This time around, I qualified for the 40-kilometre category. Each morning, we were up at 2 a.m. for the event that started at 4 a.m. on the four days. After every two-and-a-half hours, we got a 15-20 minute break for something to drink and eat and then you go again. It was quite gruelling.”
Henkel, who plans to participate next year, and the other TPS officers spent time with Canadian Armed Forces members visiting World War I Canadian battle sites Vimy Ridge and Mons, Belgium.
“As part of these tours, we performed the Act of Remembrance at each site, laying wreaths on behalf of our Service and the people of Toronto and Canada,” said Henkel.
They also visited battlefields and Canadian war graves during the 10-day visit.
“When you see the ages on the tombstones, you realize these were very young men who went abroad not really knowing what they were getting into,” he said. “It’s extremely emotional when you go there.”
The other TPS members who took part in the marches were Sergeant Doug Rose and Constable Mike Axon, of 23 Division, and Constable Sheena Cannon, of 41 Division. Constable Dawn Heighton of the Priority Response Group was the group leader.