As a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, I am reflecting more this year about my time in Afghanistan than I may have in years past. I had the privilege to serve my country in Afghanistan for almost 15 months, most of which was focused on trying to create a safe and more secure country for the Afghan people.
During my time as a member of the senior leadership team in Kabul, I gathered many solemn memories of the soldiers and civilians who were wounded and killed on my watch and the scores of insurgents and terrorists we were required to target and remove from the battlefield to protect coalition soldiers, civilian aid workers, and Afghan civilians. As I came to know, being so close to the loss of human life, regardless of what side of truth one may stand, helps to better understand oneself and to hold tight the values and beliefs that guide us through difficult and challenging times.
Also revealed to me was how a mere 15 months on the ground in Afghanistan can add so many years to one’s life as the transforming nature of command, leadership, and sacrifice acts as a refiner’s fire to inspire insight, knowledge, and wisdom.
I’ve taken so many of those lessons with me in my career outside of our armed forces. Honoring those experiences and those who serve their country is one of the aspects I’m most proud of at my current employer, The Boeing Company.
Boeing has hired more than 13,500 veterans in the last decade alone. And that focus extends beyond the walls of Boeing and into the global supply chain, with Boeing’s veteran-owned business subcontracting totaling approximately $450 million annually in recent years.
Last year, Boeing awarded more than $14 million to 97 veterans service organizations and supported more than 800 military and veteran-specific programs and organizations globally.
Here in Canada, Boeing is proud to partner with the Veterans Transition Network in both Vancouver and Ottawa, working to strengthen the network of mental health providers serving veterans. This year, I’ve been personally involved in focusing Boeing’s support for Veteran’s House: the Andy Carswell building to further its mission to help homeless or at-risk homeless veterans.
This project is particularly important to me as it provides veterans with holistic support, including rehabilitation and recovery programs to help heal invisible wounds, as well as the visible wounds.
To the families of both those here in Canada and from the 42 nations that made up our ISAF coalition who came to know the pain and heartbreak of war, I can offer my personal assurance that your loved ones who served and made many sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, truly did make a difference that will have a lasting effect in Afghanistan. The work is now on us, back home, to help those returning to civilian life to find the resources and enrichment needed to enter the next phase of their lives.
Charles S. “Duff” Sullivan is the Managing Director of Boeing Canada. Prior to retiring from the Air Force in 2009, Sullivan served at the rank of Major-General on a 12-month tour of duty in Afghanistan as NATO’s Air Component Commander and Deputy Chief of Joint Operations.
This article was republished from Esprit de Corps Canadian Military Magazine.