Sailor carries hockey jersey in memory of fallen soldier

Navy News / July 8, 2020

By Lieutenant (Navy) Greg Menzies

A hockey jersey can tell an amazing story.

For the last year, Leading Seaman (LS) Cindy Veilleux has travelled in Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships with a Calgary Flames jersey neatly folded in her duffle bag.

The Saint-Georges, Que., native came to have a special connection with the City of Calgary after meeting Private (Pte) Steven Marshall a decade ago when she was a combat engineer. The two were on course at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering in Gagetown, N.B., and became fast friends.

“Steven was born and raised in Calgary and proud to call Calgary home,” said LS Veilleux. “When we first met, I knew right away how much he loved the Calgary Flames. Hockey was his passion and he would play or watch it anywhere, anytime. Hockey was in his soul.”

After their combat engineer’s course, Pte Veilleux (her rank before re-enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy) and Pte Marshall were posted to 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, 11 Field Squadron, in Edmonton and were deployed to Afghanistan in October 2009. 

Only one week into their deployment, Pte Marshall was killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol southeast of Kandahar City.

The loss was devastating and Pte Veilleux knew she had to finish the deployment knowing her friend had given the ultimate sacrifice.

“When we returned home in May, my section commander organized a get together for Steven’s father, Murray Marshall, to meet the soldiers who had deployed with his son,” recalls LS Veilleux.

“It was the first time I met Murray and it was very emotional. Ten years later, Murray and Steven’s memory are still an important part of my life.”

She released from the Canadian Armed Forces in October 2013 and remained in contact with Murray. In October 2016, he asked her to write an article for the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald for Veterans’ Week as a way to honour Steven’s memory.

The request was an honour, but at the same time she began to reflect on how much she missed the military – the lifestyle and the friendships. 

“When I released, I had worked for four years at the Canadian National Railway as a foreman. I met some really great people, but the camaraderie wasn’t the same. I missed having a career in the military, all the opportunities available to me and most importantly the friendships I had forged when I was a combat engineer. I wouldn’t have met two amazing people if it wasn’t for the military.”

In January 2018 she re-enlisted as a supply technician. When she finished her supply technician’s course at the Canadian Forces Logistics Training Centre in Borden, Ont., she was posted to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C.

Deciding to drive across Canada to her new posting in June 2019, she took a detour to visit Murray in Calgary. 

“Murray and I met for dinner, talked for a few hours, and went to Steven’s resting place. Murray brought with him a Calgary Flames jersey that he had sewn a Support Our Troops ribbon and a 1 Combat Engineer Regiment crest on.”

“Murray gave me the one thing that meant so much to him, and asked if I could bring Steven’s jersey wherever I travelled so his memory could be shared.

“I couldn’t have been more honoured, and I fought back a lot of tears.”

In Calgary, Murray volunteered his expertise to the Homes for Heroes Veterans’ Village project that built 15 tiny homes for homeless veterans in the city’s southeast neighbourhood of Forest Lawn. Each home was named after a fallen soldier from Calgary, and was another way for him to keep his son’s memory alive.

When LS Veilleux arrived in Esquimalt, she was posted to Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Vancouver and then Regina. Then an opportunity came that she knew she couldn’t refuse – a supply technician position on board HMCS Calgary.

“Before I met Steven and Murray I never imagined having a deep connection to a city, a ship and a hockey jersey from somewhere other than my hometown of Saint-Georges. Steven’s memory is worth sharing and my way of giving back to a father who lost his son in Afghanistan.”

“I believe what I am doing for Steven will always have an amazing impact on Murray, and yes, I have Steven’s hockey jersey on board HMCS Calgary.”