There’s a special bond between the men and women who have served their country.
Okotokian Chris Reader, who served in Afghanistan, wants to have that strong bond at his welding shop.
“I want to hire mostly veterans – ideally if I could hire only veterans I would in a heartbeat,” said Reader, owner of Veteran Welding, just south of Cargill Foods. “But finding veterans — finding anybody — who wants to get into the field is tricky.”
At present, Reader has hired a veteran who is working on the business aspects of Veteran Welding.
Reader has also been in contact with Canadian Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which helps veterans find a vocation after leaving the military.
“They helped me and I thought it was time to pay it forward,” said Reader, who was a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. “I called my contact and he is looking for guys on his end and I am looking for guys on my end.”
His definition of veteran is open — someone who has put on a uniform to serve, including paramedics, firefighters, police and others.
“The way I look at it is, if you served your country that’s it — end of story,” he said. “Everything we do we try and work with veterans.”
Right down to the coffee — one of the java suppliers is an ex-RCMP member and his wife, a dispatcher.
Reader served 10 years in the military including two tours in Afghanistan.
Combat duty led to his PTSD. It was the precision of welding that helped Reader with PTSD, something he learned while assisting a relative with building a stock car.
“I had zero interest in welding, when I realized we were building a stock car it was, ‘Wow this is just awesome,’ and it blew my mind,”’ he said. “Two weeks later I bought my first welder and started doing work for myself and it snowballed from there.
“It was around the time my PTSD started up and the only thing that calmed me down was being in this environment… When my PTSD was at its worse, this environment kept me out of the box.”
He said veterans are used to working at high-stress levels, and sometimes it is difficult to fill that void.
“Even though there are days when I am the only one in the shop, I will have days when it is just: ‘What the heck, it’s not just clicking,’” Reader said. “Hiring veterans is great, but you need to know how to crack that egg to make it work for you.”
He said there are days when he stresses — that’s when he cracks out his bow and arrow and does some target practice to cool down.
“I want to create an atmosphere for vets, kind of like Google camp — here’s your task, you do it well but if you need help, we will give you as much resources as we can.
“A person can climb a mountain all by himself, but at the end of the day, he can be lonely as hell once you get to the top.”
The business is starting to pick up.
“Right now I am doing a lot of TIG work and small work,” he said. “I have also done a lot of trucks and trailers right now. Our bread and butter is what comes through the door.”
He’s working on a 1951 pick-up truck for kicks — back working with vehicles, from which he developed the love of welding. He’s giving it the same TLC he does all his jobs.
“I want to drop a diesel engine into it, a modern drive-line and end up using it as an everyday work truck,” he said. “I have dubbed it ‘Project Bluebell’ because in the military if you break down, you get on the radio and you call call-sign ‘Bluebell’ and that’s the recovery truck.
“I just thought it was kind of fitting.”
For information about Veteran Welding go to veteranwelding.ca