Bigger meaning behind vALEmountain Craft Beer Experience

At the Meet the Brewers event on Friday night, Michael Lewis explains to the crowd why he selected Communities for Veterans, the Royal Canadian Legion #266 and the Valemount Arts and Cultural Society as the non-profits to donate all of the proceeds from the first ever vALEmountain Craft Beer Experience. / EVAN MATTHEWS

by EVAN MATTHEWS

As a U.S. veteran deployed in Iraq, Macedonia and Kosovo, Michael Lewis is more than familiar with the challenges veterans face re-integrating into “normal” everyday life.

Though, not everyone is as familiar, and Lewis is committed to raising awareness.

“The biggest misconception about veterans is we’re all damaged goods… we’re all walking around with PTSD and emotional issues and everything else,” says Lewis.

“We do all have our issues from service, but for the most part veterans are not stress cases who need to be medicated, they’re positive contributors to their communities.

“They’re parents, business owners and things like that,” he says.

Lewis himself may be one of the better examples, as he is a parent of two and the co-owner of Valemount’s Three Ranges Brewery.

“There’s two generations of veterans in this country that are not completely recognized or understood,” says Lewis, making note of the various “peacekeeping” missions of the 90s. “Peacekeeping doesn’t mean it’s peaceful.”

On Jun. 7, Lewis — as one member of the planning committee — is hosting the first ever vALEmount Craft Beer Fest, and Lewis says all proceeds from the festival will be going to the Communities for Veterans, the Canadian Legion Society, and the Valemount Arts and Culture Society.

Paul and Terry Nicholls founded the Communities for Veterans Foundation in 2015 with their mission being to better understand veterans and their needs by listening to their stories, and getting a clearer vision of who society’s veterans are, according to its website.

Being in one of the most recent generations to experience war, Lewis says many citizens don’t always think about a potential neighbour or a co-worker having been in a war-type environment.

“There’s two generations of veterans in this country that are not completely recognized or understood,” says Lewis, making note of the various “peacekeeping” missions of the 90s.

“Peacekeeping doesn’t mean it’s peaceful,” he says.

The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit charity, and Canada’s largest veteran support and community service organization, according to its website, with more than 300,000 members over 1,400 branches across the country.

“It’s (necessary) to have access to a place (where you can) seek out that connection, and to know there could — and should — be other military members, or at least people who are sympathetic to what you’ve experienced in life,” says Lewis.

“Often, PTSD is the only thing that makes the news,” he says.

Lewis says it can take up to seven years for veterans to seek out a place like a Royal Canadian Legion, while in the same breath Canada is approaching the seven-year mark for many Afghan vets.