Retired Col. Kevin McLeod is marking Remembrance Day with great optimism that the nation’s respect for veterans will endure well into the future.
“When I talk to the young people and young leaders and those who are in organizations like in the cadets or at the schools or in sporting events, they have a great respect for the uniform,” said McLeod, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for close to three decades. “They have a great respect for our veterans and they have a great respect for Canada’s role in the First and Second World War, in Korea, and our reputation in the United Nations as being a country that can find the common ground.”
McLeod took part in a pre-recorded, virtual assembly at Sir John Franklin School, where his daughter Bridget is a teacher.
For him, Remembrance Day is a time to give gratitude to veterans and how they have shaped and continue to shape Canada’s ideals of freedom, democracy and peace, he said.
“I think it evokes lots and lots of emotions from veterans and serving members, and certainly from their families,” he said, when asked about the importance of Nov. 11.
“It’s a time for reflection on the past to remember folks who have come before us. It evokes emotions of the present in terms of those serving men and women who are in Latvia and missions across the world, or getting ready for missions.
“It also is a time to think a little bit about the future and how we think about what the future may hold and what Canada’s role will be in operations around the world.”
For most his career, he served as a combat engineer with the Canadian Armed Forces. In the North, he was Canadian Forces Northern Area commander from 2000-2002. It’s a period he reflects on fondly.
“I think a lot of people in the North are aware of the military presence here and I was always very impressed with how people in the North understood Northern issues and Northern sovereignty,” he said, noting that the role involved being in close contact with all communities.
“As a commander, you visit all the communities in the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut and you do get an understanding of the challenges folks were facing with health and wellbeing as well as quality of life and economic development.”
A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont. in 1980, McLeod’s career saw stints internationally in Germany, Bosnia, Cyprus and Afghanistan as well as several posts across Canada.
He transitioned to become an assistant deputy minister with the GNWT Department of Infrastructure and has worked on multiple NWT infrastructure projects, such as the Deh Cho Bridge, Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, Stanton Territorial Hospital and the new J.H. Sissons School.
During his time with the military, he and his wife Karen raised daughters Bridget, Laura and Hailey.
Now 63, he retired last year but his work in senior management with the territorial government exemplifies how skills from military service can be parlayed into promising business upstarts or new careers later in life, he said.
“From my experience, I think organizations do like using military folks because they come with a code of ethics. They’re mission-focused and they come from a team-player atmosphere,” McLeod said.