Each year, on November 11th, Systems & Software’s (S&S’) employees, partners, and their families recognize Remembrance Day and Veterans Day. This is when we honor the commitment and dedication of our service veterans who served domestically and around the globe.
In recognition of the end of World War I on November 11, 1918, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day were initially called “Armistice Day”. In November, the 11th month of the year, on the 11th day, within the 11th hour, the war officially concluded. It remained “Armistice Day” in the United States until 1954 when President Eisenhower renamed it “Veterans Day”*.
To show respect for those who have served, S&S will observe a moment of silence at 11:00 AM (local time) on November 11th, 2021. We are fortunate & honored to have several veterans on our team at S&S, in a number of different roles. To demonstrate our commitment to supporting veterans in the workplace, we wanted to share a recent interview with one of these employees, Matthew Bellew.
S&S Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Committee: First, thank you for allowing us this opportunity to speak with you about your service. Can you share with us which branch of the US Military you served, and how long you served?
Matthew Bellew: I served in the Army for 5 years from March 1984 through February 1989. I was an E-4 (Specialist E-4) and left the services about 5 months before the first major deployments for Operation Desert Storm.
I&D: What made you decide to serve in the military?
MB: I was the kind of kid who just did what I needed to get by, but I was also smart enough to see I was going nowhere and would have no real direction after I graduated. I had no desire to go back to school, so I made the decision to join up. I had no sense of where it would take me, only that it would get me out of my rut and moving forward. Best decision I ever made.
I&D: When you talk about “direction”, how did you imagine “life” in the military? Was the real experience much different than what you had envisioned?
MB: I had relatives and friends that had done basic training, so I had a very vague idea of what I was in for, but I think this always ends up being different for every person. Discipline was something foreign to me, and responsibility was something I avoided as a rule. You find out quickly how important these two characteristics are when you join up. I was able to embrace it and make it part of who I wanted to be. Once the initial training was complete, I found that life in the military (during peacetime) wasn’t all that much different from civilian life, with the exception that you had a new standard to adhere to. No more coasting through life. Instead, discipline and direction were everything. Adapting to that new way of life was not hard for me at all. I loved it.
I&D: We appreciate the sacrifices you made to serve your country. You mention expectations & discipline, can you tell us some of the “life lessons” you feel you learned while serving in the US Army?
MB: The Army taught me that no matter your rank or status, you should always be prepared to do any aspect of the job. There were many aspects of the military that were less than desirable, but always striving to do the best I could at any task, got me noticed. I found that the more willing I was to do the tedious or tough jobs, the more I was wanted for the more desirable jobs. Learning that early on has always served me well.
One thing that was very difficult to do in the service was question authority. Everything runs downhill, and typically you were expected to do as you are told. I found myself going along to get along. It was very hard at times not to push back when I felt something was inefficient or just plain wrong, but the nature of the contract meant it was what you did. This habit was hard to break after leaving the service, but the reality of civilian life is that we are all the same regardless of what we’re paid, or what we know and do. Questioning the status quo is super important for us to improve anything in life. Always question things when you think that you know a better way.
I&D: How do you translate these life lessons to your current role, either with S&S or in life in general?
MB: There is no translation. It’s just the way I live my life. It serves me just as well today as it did when I was driving a truck for a living, or when I was doing my job as a Corporal driving the rations truck for the dining facilities that I served in, while in Bamberg Kaserne, Germany.
I&D: We understand the sacrifices made by service members in the armed forces. Is there any advice you can share with those considering enlisting in the military today?
MB: We used to joke that signing up was the same as writing a blank check and giving it to Uncle Sam. You never know the amount that might come due on that check. For many people it cost them everything. The Army was a great way of life for me when I was young, but you need to know that blank check is just that. You are committing yourself to give all you are during the time you are serving. Don’t make that decision lightly.
I&D: Again, we can’t thank you enough for your time and for sharing your experiences with us today Matt. For the sacrifices made by yourself, your fellow service members, all those who served before you, with you, and who are currently serving, we are forever grateful.
Regardless of which side of the political aisle you choose to stand on, how you vote, or your stance on war, we are proud to employ members from the US and Canadian armed forces. It is as a result of the commitment and sacrifice of veterans like Matt and others who have served, that we can experience many rights and freedoms around the world.
*Armistice Day changed to Remembrance Day in Canada, in 1934 as a result of a law passed by Parliament.