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    Co-Founder of Soldier On Retires

    Quote Originally Posted by RCAF News
    Warrant Officer Andrew McLean joined the Canadian Forces in 1991, vowing to serve his country and put the safety and security of others ahead of his own. For the past 21 years, he’s done that and then some, serving first as a Canadian Army soldier with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment and then as a search and rescue technician (SAR tech) at 17 Wing Winnipeg, Man., 14 Wing Greenwood, N.S., and 8 Wing Trenton, Ont.

    Today, as he dons his CF uniform for the last time, WO McLean is taking a different kind of oath – to continue the work he started as the co-founder and champion of Soldier On, a Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS) rehabilitation program. The program is designed to help injured members “get back in the game - running, biking, skiing, whatever it is they want to do,” said WO McLean back in 2006, while the program was still a dream. WO McLean dreamed of starting the program after many of his friends began returning from Afghanistan with multiple amputations.

    His dream was fulfilled in 2006 when he co-founded Soldier On with Greg Lagacé, Paralympic Development Manager with the Canadian Paralympic Committee. In 2007, responsibility for Soldier On was transferred to CFPFSS and in November of that year the Soldier On program was complemented by the creation of the Soldier On Fund.

    Now, five years later, WO McLean is retiring from the CF to pursue a full-time career supporting and advocating for people with developmental disabilities. Next fall, he begins the two-year Disability and Community Support Program at Red River College in Winnipeg, Man., and plans to complete a university degree in disabilities management shortly thereafter.

    “My success in championing and developing Soldier On gave me a lot of experience and going back to school is another step that will contribute to my growing knowledge, efforts and passion to support others,” says WO McLean.

    Education is only one part of WO McLean’s “exit strategy” from the CF. Through the Canada Gives organization, he has also started an endowment fund called the Canadian Torch Foundation to raise $1 million for post-secondary scholarships for persons with disabilities or for those who are entering disabilities studies. He kicked off the campaign by contributing $25,000 of his own money to get things started.

    “As the fund grows hopefully we’ll have one in each province and territory,” says WO McLean. The foundation will also provide grants to rehabilitation programs for children, youth and young adults across Canada.

    Always one to put his heart and soul into everything he does, WO McLean also paid special attention to designing a suitable logo for the foundation, one that would represent “the fire that burns in each of us to make a difference.

    “The torch is symbolic of the responsibility we all have in making sure progress is carried forward. The hearts you see in the logo symbolize the passion and fire in all of us to support one another,” he says. “I know it takes a lot of work to be successful. I have not always been successful in my endeavours but I have always shown heart in at least trying.”

    As for what WO McLean will remember most about his 21 years in the CF, the list contains both personal and professional milestones.

    “I am not sure I can narrow it down to any one thing. Graduating from the Royal Canadian Regiment battle school, being shot at for the first time and standing our ground, being named combat corporal of the year, SAR tech of the year, saving a life with my bare hands, still holding the two fastest times for the Petawawa Ironman, being five-time Canadian Ultra Running champion, running 100 miles (160 kilometres) in the Yukon in -30o weather while pulling a 50 pound (23 kilogram) survival toboggan, being a Paralympic torch bearer, winning the King Clancy award from the Canadian Foundation of Physically Disabled Persons or co-founding and championing Soldier On/Sans Limites to name just a few.

    “In the end I think my greatest accomplishment in the CF was that I initiated, acted and participated. I did my job with focus and passion and never compromised my integrity.

    “I am exceptionally proud of the service I and many others have given to Canada and to the Canadian Forces as a whole. I have served along side many who, like myself, strive to honour human spirit, human dignity and human worth. The never-ending pursuit of excellence that we as the Canadian Forces embody both in our commitment to our defence team personnel and in our responsibilities both foreign and domestic are second to none. Duty, loyalty, integrity and courage are not just words but actions achieved by many. Salute.”

    WO McLean’s last day in uniform is June 7, 2012.

    WO Mclean (left) racing MCpl Franklin at the first ever Army Run in Ottawa.

    I met him a couple of years back. Amazing fellow, an amazing speaker, amazing carreer and an amazing Canadian.

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