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Remembrance Day

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 but repeatedly.

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 battlefield experience.

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!

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