June 1, 2017
Lee Ann Knudsen
Lee Ann Knudsen

How does landscaping mesh with military service?

Proud to serve

Canada 150 celebrations are everywhere, and what could be more appropriate? It’s a wonderful time for Canadians to be proud of country and heritage. Our Landscape Trades features tie the Sesquicentennial in with landscaping, and I had a crazy idea to try building a commentary around a landscape pro with a military background. I expected to find a connection between commitment to serve Canada, and commitment to work in her green environment.

Finding such a source was not easy, though. One declined to be interviewed, because he felt his service was too brief. He said, “Given the events which have transpired since then, I don’t feel it would be appropriate to refer to myself as a ‘veteran.’ I would feel uncomfortable and, more importantly, it would be a dishonour to current members.” I respect that.

The quest paid off with a referral to Pete Campbell. He works in inventory and logistics management with Geosynthetic Systems, an Ottawa supplier of landscape and erosion control products. Pete is a happy type, who obviously loves going to work every day.

He was quick to call his landscape customers good citizens and great people; that for sure they work toward something “bigger than ourselves.” He especially enjoys working with business owners. He says joking around with them makes 10-hour days speed by, “It’s so much fun.”

Campbell served in the Canadian Forces for 26 years. He was an Army combat engineer, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer. He was responsible for 45 troops as CWO, and says he learned “the ability to pass on what needs to be done — the urgency. If supplies don’t get out, the mission fails, maybe somebody dies.”

With that experience, there is no doubt inventory at Geosynthetic is as he says: lined-up, neat, clean and labelled.

Beechwood National Military Cemetery in Ottawa gets a massive spruce-up each fall ahead of Remembrance Day. Landscape companies donate labour, supplies and equipment, through Landscape Ontario’s Ottawa Chapter. Pete Campbell is the day’s organizer; last fall’s effort saw some 30 volunteers turn up.

He says his leadership role at the Beechwood Day of Tribute is totally different from military service. “I organize the donations, the food, introduce everybody — then I turn it over to the pros. I won’t tell business owners what to do.”

Campbell is a little amused at the direction his life has taken. “The way I look at it, both combat engineer soldiers and landscapers wear special boots, safety vests and helmets. You could dress them up as each other.”

How’s that for a mental picture on Canada’s Birthday?