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Veteran, marching across Canada for mental health, stops in Bienfait

In addition to depression, feelings of abandonment, racism, and physical and sexual abuse, Jefferson has faced many challenges. He shared his encouraging story with people in Bienfait last week.
Marcus Jefferson, a Canadian expatriate and French Foreign Legion veteran who is currently marching across Canada for mental health, stopped at the Bienfait Legion to share his story.

ESTEVAN — Marcus Jefferson, aka Michael Jordan, is a Canadian expatriate and French Foreign Legion veteran who is currently marching across Canada for mental health.

He stopped at the Bienfait branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on March 14 to share his story.

In addition to depression, feelings of abandonment, racism, and physical and sexual abuse, Jefferson has faced many challenges. In full, he shares his encouraging story with people he meets across Canada in an effort to inspire change.

During an evening event in Bienfait, Jefferson, who is coming from Kingsville, Ont., shared his journey of overcoming adversity, including abuse and trauma, and subsequently addictions, identity loss and mental health issues. He emphasized the importance of structure and support in helping individuals find their path in life and making a difference through their challenging endeavours.

"Throughout my life, I acquired some skills. I started off in the air cadets, where I definitely got some structure and interest in the military. From there I went to high school, where I dabbled in mechanics and was a heavy diesel and industrial mechanic for 25 years. From there, I got into police foundations, where I studied in college; I left there with distinctions. After that, I went to university for emergency response technician … And after that, I tried getting into the military. This didn't work out," Jefferson said, as he recollected his life.

He later started working in the oilfield, after which he went to the French Foreign Legion.

"I did this as an escape from my life. I had a hard time. I couldn't figure things out. I didn't know why, I didn't know what was going on. But I knew something was clearly wrong with me," he said.

"I couldn't hold jobs. Friendships weren't really lasting. I had an engagement that failed right around the oilfield crash. Ultimately, all of this led me down to an avenue of drugs and alcohol for about three years … from 30 to about 33," Jefferson added.

"I did some damage, mainly to myself. I banged my head off the wall for three years, continuously, and I ended up becoming a victim. When I was around six, I suffered from sexual abuse, physical abuse. Again, when I got into high school, there was more abuse and sexual abuse from a trusted authority. So, I did have a problem with authority, anybody in any kind of position I felt had ruined my life, and [I constantly wanted] to protect myself.

"I got to the point where I was living in homeless shelters. I did a few detox centres, I got out of that. I lost my boss to a drug overdose. We were friends. That ended up closing down that business, so found myself without a job and [no other means].

"I found myself in the system and that cycle of mental health, being surrounded by major drug addiction and major mental health issues. It's easy to become a victim and I fell victim to it," Jefferson shared with the guests.

He said he didn't attempt suicide, but he "was there". Eventually, he started having an "honest conversation" with himself about who he was and what was causing the pain.

He felt that the French Foreign Legion, one of the most difficult military formations to get into, was going to be his ticket out, so he put all he had into it.

"I trained as hard as I could. I did everything, studying, reading books, down to affirmations, down to completely shutting out everybody in my life to regain who I was," Jefferson recalled. "By then I had gotten to the normal shape. I got in at 34 years old, and I left everything behind. I literally took a backpack with a pair of underwear, socks, toothbrush, and I had enough money to get to the door and pray to God that I was getting in because I had no other options."

He was employed several times with the French Foreign Legion, protecting the population from terrorism in the late 2010s. Then he returned to Canada and had to face a new mental health challenge.

"Going out, not knowing what to do, I lost my identity," Jefferson shared. "Like most veterans, I lost that sense of pride, that sense of belonging, our community. …  [Time with the French Foreign Legion] definitely showed me who I wanted to be and who I didn't want to be. … I went from being nothing to a soldier in one of the most renowned militaries in the world."

Jefferson eventually realized that any kind of physical endurance sport or training was something that made him feel better and gave him a sense of accomplishment.

Through physical activity and his experience with the French Foreign Legion, he eventually found purpose in sharing his story and helping others while also keeping a very physically active life.

"I always had this idea, even before I had gone to the Legion that I wanted to come across Canada and I wanted to serve my own country in some way," Jefferson said. "I figured out a way I was able to cope with all the trauma from childhood. It was through sports and doing physical things, through action confronting my problems instead of running from them."

He emphasized the importance of structure, discipline and physical endurance in his journey towards self-improvement and personal growth. He also talked about his experiences with mental health challenges and the need to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

"I wanted to get around each community by foot to show people the resilience and toughness that we have as human beings," he said.

Jefferson is currently on his way east. His journey for mental health awareness started last April at the Arctic Ocean, from where he marched to the Pacific coast and then headed east. Along the physically challenging journey, he shares his personal story of mental health struggle, resistance and coping. He is planning on walking across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, then heading to Windsor, Ont., and into the U.S. to march coast-to-coast there.

He is planning to get to the Atlantic Ocean in July and hopes to be able to cross the border at the Ambassador Bridge around the new year.

Walking every day, no matter the weather, he will cover at least 27,000 kilometres.

Through his march, he is also pioneering a new sport, called ultra-distance ruck marching.

To learn more about Jefferson's mission and journey, visit his website at or follow him on social media.