05/22/2012 01:59 EDT | Updated 07/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Rick Hansen named honorary colonel of military support unit

OTTAWA - The Defence Department is marking the 25th anniversary of Rick Hansen's round-the-world wheelchair trek by naming him honorary colonel of its joint personnel support unit.

The unit offers services and programs to sick or injured military personnel, both serving and retired, and their families, as well as the families of those killed.

Hansen's original Man in Motion wheelchair marathon took 26 months, covered 34 countries and raised $26 million for research into spinal cord injuries.

The Rick Hansen Foundation has raised more than $250 million in total and continues to investigate advances in research and improvements in quality of life.

Honorary colonels help foster morale within their units and help ensure that military customs and traditions are maintained.

Appointments normally last three years.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said it is an honour to have Hansen involved in the military.

"I have no doubt that he will continue to be an inspiration to all our men and women in uniform and their families who find the strength to face the tremendous challenges that come with their situation and for their desire to recover and live accomplished lives in the face of adversity," MacKay said in a statement.

Hansen said he hopes to be able to provide encouragement to soldiers dealing with serious problems.

"We each have the power within in us to take small steps to overcome extreme obstacles," he said. "When we have hope, we have possibility."