McNeil served his country in Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia
TRURO –- A Canadian solider is being remembered by friends and family as a great friend, role model and devoted father.
Warrant Officer Michael Robert McNeil
Michael Robert McNeil, 39, a former Truro resident, died at Canadian Forces Base, Petawawa, Ont. on Nov. 27. McNeil’s death is under investigation by military police. He is the third Canadian soldier to die of an apparent suicide within the past week.
Longtime friend Bruce Smith of Truro said he first met McNeil in the late 1980s when the pair joined the 77 Arrowheads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in Truro. They later served together with the Nova Scotia Highlanders.
“He was a good friend, he was the friend you always wanted to have there,” said Smith.
He was the best man at my wedding and I’m sure he was the best man at a number of weddings.”
Smith said his friend was a “straight forward, kind guy with a sense of humour. He was always able to tell a good story.”
McNeil was born March 6, 1974, in Windsor, N.S. and was a son of Michael and Carolyn (Sanford) McNeil, Truro. The father of four children was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting and skiing.
He served with The Canadian Armed Forces and was a Warrant Officer in the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.
He was the Recce Platoon Warrant Officer and also served as a parachutist and leader in M Company.
McNeil completed two tours to Afghanistan, one to Croatia and another to Bosnia.
Barry Mellish, McNeil’s uncle, said he loved him like a son and his sudden death is “like living the nightmare all over again.”
McNeil’s cousin, Mellish’s son, Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, was killed during a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006. He was 38.
“When Frankie was killed, he stepped in and supported us like a son, he was always a son to us.”
He described his nephew as a leader, friend to all and well-respected soldier.
The family is asking for privacy during this time and has requested media not attend the funeral.
“It’s very hard,” said Mellish. “They went through this hell when Frankie died and we’re going through this hell again.” Master Cpl. William Elliott died at his home just outside CFB Shilo in Manitoba, while Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast died in Lethbridge, Alta., following a suspected suicide attempt at a corrections facility.
The deaths have renewed calls to increase support for Canada’s veterans, as well as resources for wounded soldiers and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Visitation for McNeil will be held at the Truro Armouries, 125 Willow St., Truro on Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. Funeral service will be held Thursday at the armouries at 11 a.m.