Veteran and Invictus Game Medalist Naomi Fong is a former Bombardier who graduated from the Social Service Worker Program at Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley, received the college’s Alumni of Distinction Award. She is using sport and social media to help others heal from traumatic events as well as mental illness. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Retired Bombardier receives Alumni of Distinction from Algonquin College
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday October 3, 2019
Retired Bombardier Naomi Fong has been noted by Algonquin College as their Alumni of Distinction.
The veteran is a Social Service Worker graduate and Invictus Games medalist, who is using past trauma brought on by multiple assaults during her career in the Canadian Armed Forces to empower others who may be facing similar situations.
She is going online to document the realities of living with mental illness brought on by trauma, offering her story honestly to the public.
“I’m trying to reduce the stigma against mental (illness),” said Fong. “I’m trying to reduce stigma about even talking about sexual assault and sexual health. And to help encourage people to speak about their experiences and speak their truth in safe places with safe people. That’s what I am trying to do.
She encourages people to also make positive links to their community and themselves so that they can find healing in their journey.
Getting recognized by Algonquin College for her plans, as well as her athletism is humbling. “It is amazing that the college sees what I am doing and wants to recognize me,” said Fong. “Because it is in a realm that can make some people uncomfortable.”
She is especially touched by receiving this award as her story isn’t unique.
Many military members have experienced different levels of inappropriate behaviour against them, with about 900 Regular Force members of both genders reporting sexual assault by other military members. About 600 members of the Primary Reserve report this. Though Operation Honour has been put in place to mitigate assaults and sexual misconduct, it still occurs.
So Fong has decided to use her trauma to help people. She has even hired a friend to edit a video and add subtitles so that it can be accessible to the hearing impaired.
Since leaving the military, she has found strength in keeping active and fit. Despite experiencing a few injuries and drawbacks over the years, she focuses on bettering herself every day, whether that is physically or mentally.
This attitude allowed her to return from the 2018 Invictus Games with two bronze medals in women’s cycling. “It was a very powerful experience,” said Fong. “I have been blessed to have been part of Team Canada. I got to make all these bonds and lasting relationships with people that will stay with me all my life. It is very healing.”
This journey was a hard one. Winning medals in Sydney, Australia wasn’t an easy feat as many of her peers and rivals were at the top of their game. “It was really difficult and I had to train hard,” said Fong. “I was really surprised with myself, though. When the coach told me after the time trial that I came in third place, I was just overwhelmed.”
Participating in the Invictus Games allowed her to connect with people from other countries as well as others who are also similarly experiencing mental health issues. “It was just a beautiful experience,” said Fong.
More information on Naomi Fong’s journey, including her time at Invictus, can be found on her facebook page Om Wellness - Naomi Fong at www.facebook.com/omwellnessandweights.