A life of Service | From soldier to civilian

After spending your adult life serving your country, what next?

Ed Sculthorpe can answer that question. In 1992, in Hamilton, he joined Canada’s Armed Forces as an Electrical Mechanical Engineer. Among other locations across Canada and the world, Sculthorpe spent a great deal of time at the Hamilton Harbourfront Armouries, becoming very familiar with Hamilton’s North End.

At several times in his 22-year military career, Sculthorpe worked as a teacher for various subjects including leadership, equipment maintenance and recovery, advanced driving and occupational safety. Sculthorpe helped put together a nation-wide training model for the Electrical Mechanical Engineers and established a new campus for trades training.

While serving on peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and the Middle East, Sculthorpe volunteered to re-construct playgrounds in war-ravaged Bosnian towns, also organizing fundraising events for a children’s cancer clinic in Israel and an orphanage in Syria.

Sculthorpe’s final military assignment was leading an Integrated Personnel Support Unit in Ontario, helping soldiers with physical and/or psychological injuries. He worked with families and the wider community to help these wounded Canadians, many of whom had recently returned from Afghanistan.

Sculthorpe explains, “With the Integrated Personnel Support Unit, my role was to supervise the soldiers who were transitioning out of the military into civilian life. I would work with case managers, medical staff, Veteran’s Affairs, family liaison staff, etc. to ensure that the soldier was steered toward the best possible social and financial situation, post-release. Sometimes these soldiers were not as comfortable talking to civilian staff, so I found myself in a counselling or mentorship role … It was a great way of connecting with comrades in a new way. I found it very valuable.”

After helping some of his fellow veterans transition from military to civilian life, the time came for Sculthorpe to take the same big step. This year, he moved on from the Canadian Armed Forces.

What’s next for Sculthorpe? His transition to civilian life has gone “very well,” he says, adding that the best part is “spending time with my family and being able to contribute more to my local community. Not being away as much, I feel more connected to my neighbourhood, more grounded.”

Most important, he says, is being an active parent to his two sons, both in elementary school in Hamilton. He enjoys taking them to school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.
Professionally, Sculthorpe is now translating his life-long passion for music into a small business, working as a home-based luthier: a builder and fixer of stringed instruments.

Running an arts-based business is not easy, especially in this economy, but Sculthorpe says he thrives on the challenges, adding, “My experience in the military – being a planner, an organizer and an operations manager – has been a tremendous asset.”

Sculthorpe also sees politics in his future. He is the chair of an Ainslie Wood community association that is setting up a new recreation centre at the recently-closed Prince Philip School. He has also signed up as a non-partisan candidate to be the next public school board trustee for Ward 1 & 2. Sculthorpe’s platform – emphasising the arts, student and community engagement, health, walkability and green space – is at edsculthorpe.com.

Sculthorpe says he wants to “use my experience to create a more community-centered culture at our schools … I make my own schedule now and can dedicate myself to this and to seeing it through.”
Adds Sculthorpe, “I still want to continue to serve.”

In the near future – with the war in Afghanistan ending, and the federal government cutting the defence budget – there will be increased numbers of men and women going from military to civilian life. Some of them, like those Sculthorpe helped in the Personnel Support Unit, will find the transition difficult and will need society’s help. Others, like Sculthorpe himself, will make the transition smoothly, helping to improve society with their skills, discipline, courage and dedication to others. All veterans, having risked their lives for Canada and democracy, deserve our gratitude.

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