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Transit Operator who served in Afghanistan reflects on Remembrance Day

Transit Operator who served in Afghanistan reflects on Remembrance Day

The RG-31 with the BC flag (I still have the flag) was one of the 2 types of Vehicles we used for our patrols, and it was taken at Tarnac Farms (firearms range we used to test fire our weapons and practise vehicle drills)

It’s a moment of quiet reflection, a somber yet grateful feeling that rushes over Michael Almeida when he attends a Remembrance Day ceremony.

Michael is a Transit Operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC). But when he’s not in the driver’s seat of a 40-foot bus navigating the streets of Metro Vancouver, he could be found sitting high atop an RG-31, a 4×4 mine-resistant infantry vehicle, during pre-deployment in preparation for military patrols as a reservist, or training with the Seafourth Highlanders of Canada while at home.

He served in Afghanistan.

He remembers those who didn’t make it home, and those who did, but paid the physical and mental sacrifices for our freedoms.

From a young age, Michael intently watched Remembrance Day parades, spent hours watching documentaries and studying battle scenes of the Boer War, WW1, WW2 and Korea. He would read up on medals, their recipients, and how they got them.

Next year, he will be marking 20 years in the reserves. A job he envisioned would be a jumping-off point to joining the army for a few years.

“I always wanted to do some aspect of military service. I initially wanted to join the reserves to gain some experience and then enlist in the regular army for a couple of years. Still, life has a way of going in another direction, and I stayed in Vancouver and continued being a reservist.”

In 2008, during the Olympic hiring boom, Michael decided to join CMBC. With his love of driving, a full-time job doing just that seemed like the perfect fit.

As it turns out, to drive a military vehicle or a transit vehicle, you need to have one common trait: patience.

“I don’t know which job taught it better, but I would have to say learning patience has been one skill that is vitally important in both of my roles. Having said that, I learned very early through the army that patience can only go so far, and taking the information you have at hand, thinking outside the box, and getting the job done in quick succession is a close second.”

All qualities of an exemplary transit operator as well.

When asked about how he manages the seemingly different positions he holds; a military reservist and a transit operator, Michael said, “believe it or not, they are similar in some respects. Leading and giving direction to young troops and helping a customer trying to find their way around an unfamiliar city use many of the same fundamental skills.”

Michael has a long list of highlights from both careers, notably being part of Canada’s Last Victoria Cross Recipient’s Funeral Services both in Ottawa for the lying in state and then the Funeral services in Vancouver for Ernest Alvia “Smokey” Smith VC, CM, OBC, CD in 2005. Participating in the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Holland Parades in the Netherlands 2005 also made the list, along with Domestic Operations (Fire Fighting) in the BC Interior in 2003, 2015, and of course his time in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. He reflects fondly celebrating the 100th anniversary of his unit, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, in 2010, and the presenting of new colours.

Michael is grateful for the many opportunities afforded to him at CMBC, particularly when it comes to continuing his military career.

“Being able to come back from Afghanistan, domestic operations like firefighting, or courses I have taken over the years, to a stable job is crucial. Many reservists do not have that opportunity with their civilian jobs.”

TransLink and its operating companies offer free transit on Remembrance Day to veterans, members of the Armed Forces, police and fire departments, Coast Guard, and BC Ambulance. An initiate Michael thinks is great. “It can be a big morale boost for former members, especially for older Vets, who may not have a way to get around to a Parade, Armoury, or the Legion to go see or remember old friends.”

We thank Michael, and all of the other veterans and service people for their dedicated and selfless service.