Shawn Williamson – Lieutenant Colonel (LCol), Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

At the age of 12, Shawn Williamson experienced love at first flight when he joined a national youth program called the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Thanks to his next-door neighbours who were also in the group, Shawn developed a passion for flying that led to getting his pilot’s license at age 16. A few years later, Shawn joined the Canadian Armed Forces where he served as an air combat systems operator as part of their maritime helicopter community. He became a Lieutenant Colonel, serving 32 years in service. However, his world was rocked by a serious medical condition that led to his release. During his time in service, he learned the lessons of duty, compassion, and teamwork.

“No one was ever really alone during these missions – you were all contributing to the common good,” Shawn said. Part of that good was being part of a search and rescue team on which he experienced both happy and sad endings. “At the end of the day, all I really wanted from my military service was to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s ultimately what led me to a funeral service career.”

After his discharge, Shawn stayed with the military for six months as part of a career transition program that helped him figure out his next move. He worked at a funeral home to see if it was right for him and was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the skills he honed in the military – including discipline, responsibility, and a commitment to serve people without a voice – made a direct impact in the funeral service profession. He recently celebrated his first year as a licensed funeral director and embalmer at Belvedere Funeral home in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

“Everything about the military and funeral service is based in trust,” Shawn said. “In the same way you build trust with your troops, you also have to build that trust with loved ones who’ve lost a family member or friend as well as your team at the funeral home. The personal rewards are fantastic if you find this is the service for you.”