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War vet finds peace on homemade ice carousel

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War vet finds peace on homemade ice carousel

Post by pinger on Sun 12 Feb 2017, 12:17

Take a chainsaw, cut a large circle into the frozen pond in your backyard, allow a three-inch clearance so the disc will spin on the water below, build a campfire in the centre and enjoy.

A homemade ice carousel is all in an evening's work for retired military veteran Billy Neville.

Neville and his brother Jamie spent about three hours constructing the ride on Ocean Pond, on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.

The addition of a battery-operated motor kept it spinning for about five hours, while family and friends sat on benches around a campfire burning in a heat-resistant fire bowl in the middle.

"Like everybody left and went home and I just sat there myself with the fire going, and you're looking up at the stars, oh it's nice and peaceful," said Neville.

"You don't even think that it's cold and I just couldn't wait for the next day for everybody to come back."

Neville, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 28 years, has been keeping busy in the backyard since he retired and moved back home to Newfoundland for good in 2014.

He and his brother have built skating loops and curling rinks over the past few years, complete with game stones made from beach rocks.

"My brother went to the beach in Placentia and got some big beach rocks and we drilled a hole down in them and put a metal rod down and bent the rod back."

Working on the pond helps Neville deal with the Parkinson's disease he was diagnosed with in 2011.

"I didn't know what was wrong, I was in Afghanistan actually in 2010 and I broke three bones in my back, and shortly after that I started shaking all on one side, and I thought it was a pinched nerve," Neville told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"When I got back from there they told me it was Parkinson's, I said, 'My God.'"

Neville's dangerous career has taken a toll on his body. He served in the first Gulf War, and after that did two tours in the Balkans where an exploding shell threw him into the air.

"When I landed I broke my pelvis."

He also crushed a disc in his neck working on a communications antenna farm in B.C. Then came the two tours in Afghanistan, where he fell about seven metres while setting up a security system, breaking three bones in his back.

'Just being out here, my mind is at peace.'
"Then to come up with Parkinson's? But I'd do it all over again, I really enjoyed the military."

The work on the pond can sometimes be painful, but Neville keeps pushing to get it done.

"Very painful, but I just gotta keep going, keep moving it's the military in me I suppose, I don't know," he said.

Neville has missed many Christmases with his wife and daughter while serving in the military, but now he makes the most of every day he has with his family, no matter what the weather brings.

"Like my brother is one, he loves coming out here doing everything. We'll make something, and then two or three days the rain comes and we start from scratch. We're like little ants," he said.

"Just being out here, my mind is at peace."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show
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