After serving 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, former military police officer Rick Ouellet, retired in 2002. Not wanting to delve completely into retirement, Ouellet found a job as head of security for a Collingwood Ski Resort. After 13 years as head of security, Ouellet said he felt as though something was off.
“I was eventually put in touch with Veterans Affairs. They suspected maybe I had some mental health issues and that was really affecting my day-to-day life… was diagnosed with PTSD, which dated back to my time in the military,” he said.
After being diagnosed with PTSD, Ouellet found out he also had six herniated disks in his back. Soon after starting treatment for his PTSD, Ouellet said everyone involved in his treatment suggested it was time to officially retire from the law enforcement and security career path. Through VAC, he was offered a vocational rehab program and ended up taking a web design program.
“I’m 54 years old, so to enter the IT world at that age I quickly realized that it would be difficult to put a portfolio together for willful employment,” said Ouellet. “That’s when my wife and I decided that maybe we should start our own business.”
What started as a school project, quickly morphed into his new web site, A Salute to Your Service, an online directory where businesses can advertise their different services and offers for veterans and first responders.
Ouellet and his wife enjoy travelling and while in the United States he saw how much the local businesses care for their veterans and first responders.
“I realized how much patriotism some of the businesses down there, display towards their veterans and that. A lot of the offers down in the States were accessible to Canadian veterans as well,” he said.
After 9/11, a lot of businesses started extending their offers to first responders as well. Through some of his own research, Ouellet discovered there were Canadian businesses who also offered discounts and services.
When he dug a little further, he found out there was no one-stop-shop hub for these offers and discounts and realized he had a niche.
“Then my wife ended up quitting her job as well and together we built the website up from ground zero,” said Ouellet.
As time went on and Ouellet did further research for his web-based business, he discovered there were other organizations that could also benefit from this. Ouellet generates funds for the website by offering a premium advertisement package (one year free for veterans and first responders owned businesses.) The money he raises, he’s decided to put back into programs offered to ill and injured soldiers and first responders, like Wounded Warriors.
On top of the discounts and offers on the website, Ouellet also plans to add a News and Blog page. There, visitors will be able to read articles written by psychologists and experts, as well as guest posts and PTSD success stories.
To date, Ouellet said he has identified over 500 businesses, events and offers which will be available on the website as he keeps building the database, making it a one-stop-shop for veterans and first responders interested in saving money.
“Over the years I’ve travelled and, for example, wasn’t aware that there were so many discounts available. So, if you’re travelling and you aren’t aware of those offers, you could be missing out,” he said.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can create a listing on the website, or if you want to peruse the current offers available, click here.