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We amplify marginalized voices and create meaningful work for those experiencing poverty

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‘Night Soldier’ Always Honours

Mike McNeeley
Writer, Photographer

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“It is everyone’s responsibility to honour those who did serve. We are where we are because of sacrifice,” said former Canadian Army Cpl. Will Stevens said as we sat outside his residence, The Grand Union at West Hastings and Abbott Street in Vancouver.

In 1975, Stevens was just 17 years old when he joined The Brockville Rifles 33rd Brigade, a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army located in Brockville, Ontario. The Brockville Rifles is one of 15 reserve units of 33 Canadian Brigade Group, a Reserve Brigade located in eastern and northern Ontario.

Stevens was born in Ontario and raised by his grandparents. While in high school, he did weight training and was on the wrestling team. His regiment with The Brockville Rifles was referred to as the Night Soldiers. While serving, he and his troop mates also fought forest fires.

While in the military, Stevens enjoyed a lot of camaraderie.

“Everyone was the same age. Training drills were five hours long,” he recalled. “Some of the guys could not handle the discipline or physical endurance.”

Stevens said the experience, for him, was a positive one.

“I came out of the reserves a more regimented, disciplined person.”

Stevens’ whole family was in the military. His father went to war, but never talked about it. Unfortunately, he suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and died from self-medicating. Stevens’ oldest uncle was in the Korean War and he too suffered from PTSD. He died of malaria.

“In general, not enough is being done to take care of war veterans,” Stevens said. “I don’t think there currently is a solution for PTSD. There needs to be more research into the causes and effects. Everyone is different.”

Because of his experiences and in honour of his father, uncle and all who have served, Stevens never misses a Remembrance Day service and wears his beret while attending.

And he has this advice for all: “Avoid armed conflict is what I would like our leaders and the civilian population to do.”

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Mike McNeeley

Mike McNeeley

Writer, Photographer

Mike McNeeley was born in Kincardine, Ontario and moved with his family to Vancouver more than 45 years ago. He calls the Downtown Eastside home. Mike is a Megaphone vendor and avid photographer; he's had his images published many times in the magazine, Hope in Shadows calendar and Voices of the Street literary anthology. When he's not shooting pictures, Mike enjoys other creative pursuits such as sculpture and live theatre. He is part of The Shift peer newsroom team and member of the Binners Project.

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