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Captain Breen Carson

From saving a comrade’s life overseas to helping those less fortunate at home, Breen Carson was a true hero - on and off the battlefield.

Toronto, ON


Capitaine Breen Carson




  • 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry,
    Edmonton, AB


  • 2009: Afghanistan

Breen Carson came from a tight-knit family. His parents, Patrick and Deirdre, immigrated from Ireland with his older siblings Sian and Niall, settling in Toronto, where he and his twin sister Saoirse were born. Breen’s family eventually grew to include the two loves of his life: his wife Nadia and their daughter Quinn.

Breen was fiercely proud of his family, and they were just as proud of him.

His sister Saoirse remembers that “he loved to help others, and did so in a quiet and unassuming way.” Today, his big-hearted kindness lives on through his family, close friends and the many lives he touched during his 41 years.

Breen with his wife Nadia and daughter Quinn.
Breen with his father Patrick.
“Service was at the core of his character.”

Breen had a distinguished military career, earning both a Meritorious Service Medal and a mention in dispatches during his six years in the Canadian Armed Forces. His path into the military was a winding one - he joined the army in 2006 at age 32, the same year he got married.

He’d spent his early career working for the provincial government and his best friend’s family-owned business in Toronto. But once he joined the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, it’s clear he’d found the right fit for his adventurous spirit and drive to help others.

According to Niall, “service was at the core of his character. Maybe partly coming from his faith, but also just an innate trait and who he was. He was a pretty fearless adventurer, so that was part of the army’s appeal.”

With Nadia by his side, he trained in Quebec and New Brunswick before being posted to Edmonton. In October 2009, he deployed to Afghanistan. Stationed in Kandahar Province’s Panjwai district, he worked closely with members of the Afghan National Army over the next several months.

Breen serving in Afghanistan in 2009.

Saoirse remembers that he made strong connections with his fellow Afghan soldiers. “Despite the language barrier, they became good friends. Humour was one thing that brought them together and brought a little relief for a short time in unimaginable circumstances.”

It was a dangerous time to be serving in Afghanistan. One day on patrol, Breen’s comrade stepped on an improvised explosive device. His training immediately kicked in, and he rushed to help. While the soldier lost his leg in the attack, his swift actions helped save the young man’s life.

He returned home a hero, but he found it hard to leave the friendships he’d made behind. “When Breen left Afghanistan, I remember him telling me how difficult it was. He knew he wouldn’t see his Afghan friends again and prayed that the army he left behind would be safe.”

In 2011, he was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his frontline leadership during “multiple enemy contacts and improvised explosive device finds” and his exceptional mentorship of members of the Afghan National Army. But Saoirse remembers that what mattered most to him was that “the Canadian Forces were making a difference, and he was proud to help make the world a better place.”

“If it was your freedom I was fighting to protect, would you think it was worth it?”

He left the army in 2012 to focus on what mattered most to him - his family. He and Nadia returned to Toronto, welcoming their daughter in 2014. Despite balancing full-time work and family life, he continued to give back to his community: delivering presentations to high school students, visiting with older veterans, volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter. A gifted speaker, he once gave a speech about his experiences in Afghanistan to a captivated audience at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Years later, his words still ring true.

This video is a recording of the speech Captain Carson gave at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre about his experiences in Afghanistan.

Transcript: Captain Carson speaks about his experiences

I was stationed in Panjwai’i district in Kandahar province, imbedded with the Afghan National Army. Every day I met Afghan men and women, old and young… children yearning for freedom and a better life.

I’ve experienced the realities of war.

I’ve had my combat boots stained with the blood of a Canadian soldier; part of my patrol who lost his leg after he stepped on an improvised explosive device.

I’m often asked, was it all worth it?

I think of the 158 Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives, as well as those wounded in accidents, and this is what I believe:

Every human being in this world is my brother and my sister.

They deserve dignity and the right to be free.

There is nothing more worthy of our sacrifice than making that happen.

If it was your freedom I was fighting to protect, would you think it was worth it?

Breen died unexpectedly in 2016. At his funeral, his family members were approached by someone with a story that would become a common refrain: how an encounter with Breen made a difference in their lives.

Breen and his twin at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, where he is being honoured.

In this instance, a fellow soldier had come in for training, and Breen noticed his running shoes were in desperate need of replacement. Without a word or a second thought, he bought his comrade a new pair. “Over the years we have met so many people who say Breen was my best friend,” says Saoirse. “Everywhere we go we meet people who knew Breen - he touched everyone.”

His family misses him dearly, and the stories that have emerged about their beloved husband, father, son and brother confirm what they’ve always known: Breen Carson was a loyal, brave and dependable person who radiated warmth and compassion. That is his legacy, one they’re all so proud of.

With courage, integrity and loyalty, Breen Carson has left his mark. He is one of our Canadian Veterans. Discover more stories.

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