Michael’s Story: A veteran with a purpose

Meet Michael Briggs, OCdt (Ret’d), MSc, who is a proud member of Commissionaires Great Lakes. He is an advocate for veterans and a relentless supporter of mental health awareness, and a volunteer for a variety of community outreach programs. Michael is a living example of his belief that everyone can make a difference in their own way. To understand how he became such an advocate, we have to go back to 1986.

When he was just 18, Michael attended CFB Chilliwack for Basic Officer Training, followed by The Royal Roads Military College (RRMC). He ultimately joined the 3 Field Engineer Squadron Reserves and returned to CFB Chilliwack for Combat Engineer Training Officer Phase 2. It was here that Michael’s life changed forever.

On June 20, 1988, at Sleese Creek, Michael survived the worst training accident in Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering history. Twenty-nine students, seven instructors and five support staff were in the demolition portion of the training practicing explosive cratering, a task that makes roads impassable through deep hole creation. In order to form the craters, engineers dig holes in which explosive chambers are placed and then detonated. The resulting shock waves break up the soil and creates a crater. This process requires a lot of practice, patience and skill.

On this day, the unthinkable happened.

A charge detonated prematurely. Sixty pounds of explosives detonated all around the team, creating a crater two metres deep and four metres wide. The explosion sent Mike 50 feet in the air, landing 100 feet away. He had no vital signs.

“Officer Cadet Mike Machin and Officer Cadet Shawn Ryan revived me,” Mike explained. “When medics arrived on the scene they took over. The medics lost me for the second time en route to the base hospital. My vital signs stopped for a third time as I was being wheeled into the operating room. In all, we lost six team members, my friends, that day.”

This tragedy ignited Michael’s passion to fight for disability benefits for soldiers who have sustained injuries as well as work toward pension coverage with Veterans Affairs Canada for all. His advocacy work, community involvement and efforts play a key role in Michael’s healing journey as have golf and horseback riding, both of which have taught him to manage his focus and help with his PTSD.

In 2012, Conrad Toda (a CGL retiree) noticed Michael was an ex-military member while at a local gym and struck up a conversation. He said, “We need guys like you. Go to our office on Church Street and tell them that you’re going to be a commissionaire.”

The rest is history.