Language selection


Cpl (Retired) Dennis Mackenzie

Dennis Mackenzie is a retired Corporal from Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island, who lost 10 friends while serving in Afghanistan. Since then, he has lost many more to suicide. He is now on a mission to raise the veil of secrecy surrounding the topic so that those soldiers are also honoured and remembered for their service.

Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island


Dennis Mackenzie


Charlottetown in 2004


  • CFB Gagetown


  • Afghanistan in January 2007

His guitar gently weeps.

With each strum, Mackenzie channels friends he’s lost both on the battlefields in Afghanistan, and to the post-war anguish that led them to take their own lives.

The former infantry soldier with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Gagetown, New Brunswick, says he lost 10 friends in Afghanistan; including his roommates (Cpl Chris Stannix, Cpl Aaron Williams and Cpl Brent Poland) who were killed on Easter Sunday, 2007. Mackenzie says he named his son Slade after Pte David Robert Greenslade who was also killed that terrible day.

Mackenzie was released from the military in 2013. Post-service, he says the invisible scars of war have taken the lives of more of his friends.

On the back of his Taylor six-string guitar, 80 names are etched on layered walnut – all soldiers lost to suicide.

“How can we stop it? How can we bring a light and talk openly without shame?”

Mackenzie feels for the families who lose loved ones this way. Instead of receiving military honours and folded flags as would be the case if someone was killed during service, the families often deal with the loss of their loved one in shame and secrecy.

“They should get to talk about their war hero father. Those kids (whose parents died by suicide) don’t get to talk. It can’t just be that their father ‘died suddenly.’”

“The same war took this life that took a life on the battlefield and we need to honour and respect them the same.”

Mackenzie describes  this sentiment of injustice in his song Lanterns from his 2022 album The Guardian Angel Platoon; “Oh they shall not grow old commander will say, but we won’t mention them on Remembrance day. For it seems no one cares to honour the ones we lose to the war once they lay down their guns.”

“It baffles me that in our society this is so hidden,” he says, adding that in Samurai tradition the word ‘Seppuku’ implied there was honour in taking one’s life. Mackenzie says that instead, we consider it a crime, even using the word “commit” to describe the act. “If we start to decrease the stigma and shame with more open communication, we can get people help when they need it most,” he said.

“These are the conversations that will help us get out of the dark.”

Mackenzie says he suffered moral injury during his seven-month tour in Afghanistan. In the years after his release, he says he struggled with alcohol. He has tried countless therapies but music has been the thing that saved him.

“I spent seven months feeling like I shouldn’t be there and doing things I didn’t think I should be doing, fighting with myself internally,” he said.

“When I came home, I had a hard time learning to trust myself again.”

“During a bad moment or a bad day when those feelings became out of control I picked up my guitar.”

Through financial support from VAC, Mackenzie was able to focus on his healing through  singing and songwriting, which helped with his recovery.

“I’ve been able to explore therapies like traditional talk therapy and other psychological services, but it extends so much further,” he explained.

“The list is growing every day of things that VAC is covering to help in our journey. It’s a work in progress but it’s working in the right direction.”

In November 2023, Mackenzie was the master of ceremonies at an open mic night for Veterans in Charlottetown, one of two events meant as casual alternatives to the more traditional commemorative ceremonies held during Veterans’ Week. The goal of the event was to bring people together by recognizing the importance of music in the healing process. Veterans, current serving members, and guests were invited to an evening where they had the opportunity to share stories and songs.

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

If you are a Veteran, a family member or a caregiver who needs mental health support, the VAC Assistance Service is available to you 24/7, 365 days a year, at no cost. Call 1-800-268-7708 to speak to a mental health professional today.

People and stories main page
Date modified: