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Ops Notes: Poppies and My Pops

This is Dave, but I normally call him Dad. He might not seem important and relevant to write about in an operational blog but he is.

November 11th is Remembrance Day

Among all the drama of the U.S. election, the new color coded COVID system and all the other ‘newsworthy’ headlines we should not forget that November 11th is Remembrance Day. It is the observed day where we salute those who have served and continue to serve; and we take pause to honor the fallen in times of war and conflict. It’s a singular day where we as a country collectively gives thanks to these men and women who have and still stand with courage and valour to protect their values and that of their chosen nation.


The Transition to Civilian Life

This, is also him.

So, to bring it back to Dave aka Dad.

November 11 isn’t just another day to reflect on individual service – the Air Force was a huge part of my upbringing and that of many of the kids I grew up with at RAF Wildenrath. My dad’s service record is a part of my day-to-day recollection, as it is for many military families around the world. For him, the uniform was an extension of him, not just a wardrobe. It provided him with an education, a home, a family (thanks to Facebook he is still in touch with many that he served with) and so much more.

When my dad left the RAF his transition to the “real world” seemed easy enough through a child’s eyes. He had transferable skills, he had an education and to me he simply switched from one uniform to another. I am still a little fuzzy as to what my dad really did in the RAF mainly because he and his buddies rarely talk about it. They hint at it; they randomly drop things like “oh remember that night we flew to Alexandria … ” and when they see us kids look over to hear more the conversation tapers off. But whatever he did made it seem easy enough for him to transition into civilian life and make sure I had a school uniform (mandatory in public school in the UK), food was on the table and we had a home.

That ease that I saw isn’t the reality though. Transferring out to the real world is literally moving from one reality to another. Think any episode of Quantum Leap but on a massive scale. The mental, physical and emotional transformation that takes place as someone leaves ‘base life’ for ‘civilian life’ is almost indescribable for many who have spent a significant chunk of their adult lives in it.


Reskilling and Transitioning

Reskilling to find new work can also be a challenge. In the US you can be trained as an army medic work in the front lines of war but when you come home your education and experience in some states is not even considered relevant for an EMT position. That’s where groups like Helmets to Hardhats and Skills for Change come in.

Helmets to Hard Hats Canada

Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) is a registered not-for-profit organization, established in Canada in 2012, that is dedicated to assisting veterans transitioning from military service, and active reservists, into well paid, highly-skilled second careers in construction and related industries. They work in partnership with construction trade unions, governments and industry to help streamline the pathways to apprenticeship, advanced training and career placement opportunities in the construction industry with registered employers who support the men and women who have served our country.

The dedicated staff at H2H are former military themselves and understand the transition to civilian life and are focused on the success of each and every client. H2H is recognized as a leading service provider by Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs Canada, Red Seal Canada, Canada’s Job Bank and Canada’s 14 Building Trade Unions and Leading Industry Business Owners.

How Can You Get Involved

If you are an employer and have a posting available visit their site to register for an account and start posting today.

If you are active or transitioning military or a veteran take a look at their career resources and other information on their site.


Skills for Change

Skills for Change mainly works with immigrant and refugee communities in the GTA, however as the child of an immigrant (I’m a multi-hyphen in many of life’s categories) programs and service groups like these have helped many reskill for the Canadian workforce.

They offer a variety or programs such as the Welding and Employment Skills Training Program where participants of the program obtain their CWB Welding Qualification Ticket under CSA W47.1 standard for the GMAW, FCAW/MCAW processes. Programs like this one allow for quality education with a focus on reskilling and also a high degree (the goal is 100%) of cohort placement.

How Can You Get Involved

If you are an employer that can help with placements in this program or others please reach out to Sampada Kukade, Director, Employer Engagement & Partnerships for more information skukade@skillsforchange.org.

If you are interested in learning more about their Trades Win Support Program or applying for an upcoming cohort visit their site for more information.


These are just two resources, there are many others out there both for employers, and military transitioning. There are so many organizations out there doing great work and this November when media moments like the ban (then not) of poppies at Whole Foods, shows the impact of the Poppy. As many stay home and avoid the usual locations to pick up a poppy – take a moment and visit MyPoppy.ca and create your digital Poppy.

I would usually end my Remembrance Day social media comments with go hug a veteran and say thank you, but in today’s climate maybe just say thank you.

Thanks Dad!