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Heroes Hockey Challenge heads to Abbotsford

Paul Franklin lost both his legs serving in Afghanistan, but as he told an Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday, it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

"What was the other option? Death. So this has to be the best thing that ever happened – there is no other option."

Franklin acknowledges he would never want to go through the difficult rehabilitation, but he is happy to be alive. Now, he travels and tells his story to raise public awareness and support for other amputees and veterans.

He is the co-founder of the Heroes Hockey Challenge, which raises funds for veterans by hosting hockey games between soldiers and former NHL players. The next Heroes Hockey Challenge will be held in Abbotsford.

Franklin said he lives to support his 13-year-old son, Simon.

"In a long enough timeline, we're all dead – it's how you live in that timeline that you're given."

The retired master corporal joined the Canadian military as a medic at 30 years old. He was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Franklin said he and his fellow soldiers knew they had to keep their wits about them, so they continued to retrain and re-certify each other. He taught his fellow soldiers how to use tourniquets and other medical equipment.

On Jan. 15, 2006, with two weeks left in his tour, Franklin's vehicle was hit by a suicide bomber. He lost one leg and the other was seriously damaged. As well, he suffered burns to his hands and face from flaming diesel fuel. He was assisted by his fellow soldiers and extracted from the area. Franklin spent a brief time stabilizing in a Germany military hospital before being transported to Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton.

Franklin underwent 26 surgeries in one month in attempts to save his other leg, but it was eventually amputated. He became one of Canada's first military double-above-the-knee amputees from the Afghanistan war. He now walks with prosthetics or uses a wheelchair.

His schedule includes extensive travelling from his home in Edmonton, and he uses his travel points to take trips with his son.

"What I do is I get my son to choose anywhere in the world he wants to go… last year it was Dubai, the year before was the Battle of Britain show and some army stuff in London, then it was a cruise in the Caribbean… Those are the kinds of things I want to do for my son."

The Heroes Hockey Challenge will take place in Abbotsford in April. A gala will be held at the Phoenix Lounge on April 6 and on April 7, the Heroes Hockey Challenge game will be played at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sport Centre between the NHL Lengends and the HHC Warriors, a team of active and retired soldiers of the Canadian Forces.

The NHL Legends team will include Pat Quinn as coach, Ryan Walter as assistant coach, as well as Kirk McLean, Cliff Ronning, Dave Babych, Geoff Courtnall, Russ Courtnall, Garth Butcher, Martin Gelinas, Greg Adams, Gino Odjick, Bill Ranford, Dave “Tiger” Williams, Orland Kurtenbach and others.

All proceeds from the event go directly to assisting wounded soldiers and their families, and the families of the fallen.

Tickets are available at the AESC box office or at www.heroeshockeychallenge.com.

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