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Grant Finnigan is someone who seems to live 30 hours every day. He has a full-time job as a firefighter, delivers Christmas food hampers during the holiday season and stays in touch with his Army comrades. On top of that, he’s a Big Brother, mentoring a youth who needs a positive male influence.

A career of training

Having this many interests goes back a long way. When Grant was in high school in St. Thomas, Ontario, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves in 2010, as part of the 31 Combat Engineer Regiment (The Elgins).

Grant Finnigan
Grant Finnigan (third from left) with a group of firefighters at CFB Trenton.

While in the Reserves, Grant studied history and criminology full time at the University of Western Ontario in London. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2013 he switched to the Regular forces. At the Canadian Forces Fire and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Academy at CFB Borden, he trained as an aircraft rescue firefighter. He became part of the “blue crew” of the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter unit and was assigned to CFB Trenton.

“You get pretty close to the others on the fire crew,” he says. In addition to learning valuable skills, he developed deep friendships. “Camaraderie is very important. You have each other’s backs.” Those friendships have endured to this day, and there are friends, former colleagues, across Canada whom he telephones weekly.

Grant Finnigan
Grant Finnigan (second from right) as part of the Air Rescue Fire Unit at CFB Trenton.

It was in Trenton that Grant met Kendra, the woman who became his fiancée. Being in a relationship, he realized that his life was changing. He decided to release from the military and move into a civilian career. He released 30 November 2020.

“Transition was a little rocky, a little stressful,” he says. He recalls advice he gave to a friend previously—to look into the trades as a career. “I ended up taking my own advice.”

Grant Finnigan
Grant Finnigan’s work site on a job obtained with the help of Helmets to Hardhats.

He had help from Helmets to Hardhats, an organization that helps CAF Veterans find skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry. “I’m very grateful. They understand Veterans’ needs after transition, and what they need to find a new career. They set us up for success.”

Grant applied the skills he developed in the military to a new career as a fire protection installer. With Helmets to Hardhats’ help, he found an apprenticeship position with Superior Sprinkler Co. of Mississauga. The company installs fire protection systems, including sprinkler systems, in commercial buildings across the Greater Toronto area and beyond. “It’s critical work for a structure that may house a large number of people,” he explains.

Life beyond work

Throughout it all, Grant never let his firefighting skills lapse. He joined the volunteer fire department in Southwold, ON, becoming a firefighting instructor. And some months after that, he was hired on permanently as a career firefighter with the department.

In his spare time, Grant delivers food hampers during the holiday season, and three years ago, became a Big Brother. “I’m mentoring a youth who needs a strong male figure in his life. He likes working with his hands, with motors. We do a lot of that.”

Grant Finnigan
Grant Finnigan, centre, holding a blue helmet, at an Urban Search and Rescue course in Massachusetts.

One year after his release from the military, Grant has found his stride and purpose through his civilian career and volunteer work. “I think I’ve learned patience, and a lot about myself by doing this. I’m learning how to slow down. And I think it’s made me a better firefighter and firefighting instructor, too.”

Wide-ranging skills

With a broad range of interests, abilities and training, Grant Finnigan has found that skills developed in one field benefit his performance in many.  

Note: Helmets to Hardhats is a national non-profit organization that helps transitioning members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans and Reservists find training and career opportunities in the construction industry. It has received funding from the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund.

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