I was an Air Force brat growing up , moving from base to base across Canada. The last base I remember was Comox, BC, when my dad was in the 409 squadron, flying Voodoos and T-Birds back in the day. Although some of his comrades died during his military career, he did not see active duty, but the men and women in uniform remain an indelible part of my childhood. 

When my friend and colleague Chris Mallory (VP Creative Services MLB Network) mentioned last year that he was considering hiring a veteran as a graphics intern I was super interested to hear more. Chris kept me posted as things progressed and no sooner was the internship official, than ex-sergeant Mike Gallardo drove non-stop from Texas to MLB Network in Secaucus, and in those 24 hours, became the newest member of the Sports Graphics community. 

A few weeks before the SVG Sports Graphics Forum in NYC, I asked Chris if he and Michael would be ok for me to shoot a doc that I could show at the Forum and hopefully shine a light on SVG’s Veterans In Production initiative, as well as the benefits of hiring a vet. Chris's response was a big YES = so Jordan & I jumped on a plane to Secaucus, shot the interviews and immediately back to Toronto where Yolanda and Chara edited the mini-doc (see link below). A few weeks later at the SVG Graphics Forum, we showed the doc and introduced Mike and Chris to an audience of some 200 members of the broadcast community. It was a moment everyone there will remember. Mike and Chris received a standing ovation, and ex-sergeant Gallardo answered all questions with poise, enthusiasm, seriousness and laughter. It was remarkable. Mike said later it was one of the best days of his life. Every time I think about it I have to reach for a Kleenex.

The men and the women around the world who serve their countries by joining the Armed Forces are heroes in the truest sense of the word. They put their lives at risk, they put their physical and mental health at risk, all to protect the country and the people they love. While we go about our day to day, they're the ones who take the bullets. It will be a great moment for civilization when there is no more war, but it won’t happen in our lifetime, nor our children’s, nor our children’s children. So we must continue to honour and support the men and women who risk all.

No one who goes to war returns unchanged. And when the soldiers return, it is not always to the care and the good life they so richly deserve. As a professional community, we can all do more. The men and women who served for us, now need us to serve them in a simple but critical way. Give them the opportunity to work and build a new career. In the words of William “Kip” Ward retired Army General Officer speaking at NAB’s “Military Veteran Outreach to Industry” at NAB 2017 on the value of hiring veterans: “…Veterans come to an organization with a sense of discipline, loyalty, accomplishment and a responsibility to duty unlike anyone else. The skills they possess are transferable, they bring to the workplace a skillset unlike any other.”

According to a 2014 study, an average of 2o US veterans commit suicide every day. In Canada the numbers are proportional. Canada's peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan saw 154 soldiers die in active duty. Since Afghanistan, 54 Canadian soldiers have committed suicide. As David Poulin from veterans.gov said at the same NAB event: "Every veteran that gets hired is potentially 1 less suicide". It doesn't get more serious than that,

We would like to continue to raise awareness of the Veterans in Production program at all SVG events. Since the event in February already more than half dozen people from different broadcast organizations have started the process of hiring vets. We are now working to create a roadmap of sorts, with key links and a guide to the hiring process so that anyone in the broadcast community can successfully bring on a military veteran for a wide variety of positions, no matter where they are in the country. We are planning on doing a follow up doc next year to see how Michael is doing, as well as share some new stories for 2018. 

We are also now connecting with people like Phil Nelson, Phil Oakley who are developing short training programs for military vets to get certified on systems like DaVinci, Tricaster, 3D animation etc.. as well as large national organizations such as Hire Our Heroes and Veterans.gov.

So here is Michael’s story, but also the story of MLB Network and Chris Mallory’s commitment to helping the men and women of the Armed Forces return to productive and fulfilling careers. I am not an expert filmmaker by a long stretch - but I hope it inspires you to reach out to me or Ken from the SVG ViP program **which will hopefully be getting a big overhaul this year.


Drawing by Mike Cheney