Armed Forces Veteran Opens Mental Health Conversation For Vets Through His Music

By Steve McLean 11/11/21 |

Dennis MacKenzie — photo credit: Meaghan Wilkie.

Canadian Armed Forces veteran and activist Dennis MacKenzie's first single, “Lanterns,” is in support of destigmatizing the conversation surrounding veteran suicide. The physical album, the musician's debut, titled The Guardian Angel Platoon, comes with a commemorative pin inspired by the design of a military-used lantern, which MacKenzie hopes can be worn alongside the poppy in honour of all those killed by war at home and abroad.

Soldier On, a national Canadian Armed Forces program designed to help injured and ill veterans with their recoveries, will support and distribute MacKenzie’s release within the veteran community.

Ottawa-based Soldier On was launched in 2007 and has since supported more than 8,800 ill and injured members. It uses sports and physical recreational activities to enable social support, build confidence in abilities and realize full potential.

MacKenzie spent nine years in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, including a deployment to Afghanistan. He lost 10 comrades, three of whom were roommates. Since his return to Canada, MacKenzie has lost more colleagues and friends to suicide than he did during his deployment.

Music therapy has had a profound impact on MacKenzie’s life. Through songwriting and playing guitar, he’s found a new method of coping with the trauma that he and other veterans experienced during their time at war, and also a way to shed light on an overlooked issue in veterans’ affairs.

The Prince Edward Island man was invited to a one-on-one meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019 to discuss veteran mental health and the ongoing crises Canadian veterans face after returning home from war.

“When a soldier dies on the battlefield we fly our flags at half mast, we drive them down the ‘highway of heroes’ and pass hundreds, if not thousands, of people showing their respect and saying goodbye,” MacKenzie said in a media release.

“We name streets, bridges, ships and parks after them. Yet when our country loses one of its heroes to the invisible wounds of war we do not honour them. We simply let them disappear in the dark.”

MacKenzie collaborated with songwriter, performer and producer Dennis Ellsworth and composer, producer, recording engineer, mixer and musician Adam Gallant on his music, which he hopes will shed light on those who lose the battle of war at home.

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