November 11th is designated as Remembrance Day in the
countries of the British Commonwealth, including Canada. Its purpose is to
remind us of the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for us in
one of our foreign wars: WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Afghanistan. We mark
the occasion with 1 minute of silence at 11:00 am every November 11th. The line
"Lest we forget" is frequently used in association with the event as
a sort of tag line to remind us of the sacrifices made on our behalf and to
keep the memory alive in the future.
Thinking of those who died in those wars and of how one
could thank them for their sacrifice launched this blog. The answer to the
question is, of course, that you can't thank the dead for their sacrifice. If
we feel gratitude towards those have made sacrifices on our behalf, we will
have to focus our attempts on the living. With that in mind let me list some of
the reasons for being grateful and thankful to those who go overseas to fight
on our behalf.
Lest we forget: It's not only those who die in battle (or through
accident when in uniform overseas) who make sacrifices on our behalf. Some of
the folks making sacrifices are coming back to us with serious wounds. These
wounds include the loss of limbs and the loss of the use of limbs.
Lest we forget: Not all the wounds suffered by combat troops
are visible. Some of these young men and women come back to us suffering from
forms of mental illness caused by the stress of battle. Despite the fact these
wounds are invisible, they can be just as debilitating as the physical sort.
Lest we forget: Every single man or woman that put themselves
in harm's way on our account are making a sacrifice. The lucky ones, and thank
goodness they far outnumber the injured, still sacrifice years out of their
lives and usually when they are in the prime of their lives and would otherwise
be carving out careers for themselves.
Lest we forget: It is not humanly possible to be continually
exposed to the violence and stress of battle without those conditions having a
profound effect on you. Even soldiers who are not diagnosed with physical or
mental problems will be profoundly changed by their experiences.
Lest we forget: These folks have made, and are making, these
sacrifices on our behalf. When our country asks for soldiers, sailors, and
airmen to serve, the people who volunteer to serve (or are already in the armed
forces because they volunteered before the war) are serving on our behalf. This
is true whether we agree with the reasons for the war or not.
Lest we forget: It takes great courage to volunteer for a
service which is physically dangerous. There is no more dangerous job in the
world than a front-line service man or woman. They go over to whichever country
we happen to send them knowing they could come back amputees, horribly
disfigured, or not at all.
The project management community can show its gratitude to
these brave men and women when they come back to us by hiring them when they
come out of the forces. Remember that the army will currently only retain those
veterans who are battle field ready. Readiness is tested by a physical exam
which excludes most of those who have lost limbs or have their mobility
compromised. Project managers and their teams may feel they are in a battle
sometimes, but there are no physical demands an IT, pharmaceutical, financial,
insurance, etc., etc. project makes on them. The fact that a veteran is
disabled should not bar them from a job they are otherwise fit to perform.
The very fact that these folks sacrificed their time will
handicap them when they compete with others who have been adding to their
education and skill sets during that same time. To compensate for that
disparity the veteran can offer you their courage and their ability to handle
the stress of battle. How can that help your project? How many times have you
seen otherwise capable performers behave irrationally when a deadline looms and
they are behind on their work? How many times have you seen evasive behaviour
when the pressure is on? Now think of the effect their experiences in battle
have had on a veteran's ability to handle pressure situations. Most of us, when
we interview a candidate for a position on a project, will look for a candidate's
ability to demonstrate the skill or experience they say they have. There is no
better demonstration of someone's ability to handle pressure situations than
the experience of a veteran who has gone through the stress of battle, not once
The other attribute these veterans have is the ability to
work as a member of a team. There are no projects I can think of where team
play is not important. Soldiers are forced to rely on one another in the
battlefield. They put their lives in the hands of their team mates and the
ability to work together as a team not only leads to success, it can save their
lives. Think of the number of times you have read of a soldier's bravery in
battle as demonstrated by the risks they took to save a comrade. Now think how
many times that must happen without comment in the media. If you are looking for a demonstration of the
ability to work as a member of a team, look no further than the vet's
The next time you have the opportunity to hire one of our
veterans, make sure that you weigh their experience on the battlefield with all
the other attributes you value for the job. Veterans are not looking for hand-outs,
they are looking for a level playing field. Hiring the vet for a job they are
qualified for will benefit your team with courage, the ability to function in
stressful situations, and the ability to function as part of a team. And that
vet might just teach you a thing or two about handling stress!