A Soldier’s Diary – Veterans’ Week speaker visits home community of North Spirit Lake First Nation

Image Gallery

Article / November 18, 2015 / Project number: 15-0208

North Spirit Lake, Ontario − Corporal Tyler Meekis of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry returned to North Spirit Lake to speak with the students of Victoria Linklater Memorial School for Veterans’ Week. He has not made the 850- kilometre trek back to his northwestern Ontario home community for more than a year. The following is his first-person account in journal form.

November 6

A return trip to my home community − I have been thinking about this tasking for a nice little bit, since my last visit was more than a year ago. I’m especially looking forward to speaking to the kids at the Victoria Linklater Memorial School about my life in the Canadian Army. I anticipate that there will be lots of questions to answer from the students and teachers about what it’s like to serve. Representing my regiment, the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, is an honour.

I get to spend a night in Winnipeg on this trip! It will be nice to have a visit with my father before heading back to the reserve.

November 8

I had a great visit with my dad here in Winnipeg. He is really proud of me for going to speak to the students in North Spirit Lake. Thinking about his pride makes me even more determined to stand as a role model for the young kids in North Spirit Lake.

Here in my room at 17 Wing Winnipeg, I have many questions about tomorrow. I wonder if the chief, Caroline Keesic and council are going to come to the presentation. How will the day’s events unfold? I guess I will find out when I visit with the school principal, Adrian Lawrence, tomorrow. Good night – I have to be up really early tomorrow.

November 9

Morning: Well, I’m on the plane to North Spirit Lake. I can't wait to get there! I had a hard time sleeping last night. I can't wait to be home.

Evening: Today was an awesome day. A few of my cousins welcomed me at the airport, which was a nice surprise. My presentation went very well, thanks to the Mr. Lawrence and everyone at the school. I wasn't as nervous as I was when I was rehearsing. All 75 of the little kids in attendance loved it. They were so excited and curious to see me there in my uniform talking to them about the things I do day-to-day as a soldier.

Some of the students talked with me after the presentation, wanting to know if being in the Army was like what they see in video games. I guess I'll never be as cool as the figures in those games!

Everyone is very photogenic and lots of pictures were taken with the classes. It was nice to be invited to take class pictures. My kindergarten teacher, Charlotte Rae, is still working for the school! The kids were very surprised that their teacher used to be my teacher when I was their age.

Today, I was able to talk with one of the council members, Cory Rae, who attended my presentation. I was so surprised to see him on the council because he was just a grade ahead of me in school. It was surprising to know that chief and council had recommended me for this tasking. They were excited to see that I actually came home to do a presentation. While it was a bit nerve-wracking to present in front of my chief and council, I think I got the job done nicely.

After the school visit, I went to see my grandmother, “Kukoom” Connie. I took a few pictures with her and showed her updated pictures of me and my family. She really enjoyed seeing that my family is growing. Hearing her wisdom again felt wonderful. She told me exactly what I needed to hear.

There was a lot of visiting that I've done today, but I'm not done! I still plan to go see my old childhood friends and enjoy myself a bit more before I leave tomorrow.

Midnight: Just got back from visiting and I am pretty tired. My Auntie Kelly made a nice pot of moose stew: it's been awhile since I had wild meat.

Visiting with my family was amazing! Everyone was just so happy to see me. I wasn't expecting them to be so talkative and making fun. My family is still a goofy bunch!

November 10

Morning:  Well, I just called North Way, the airline that flies into our community, and they cancelled all their flights into North Spirit Lake today because of bad weather. I'm supposed to be on parade back in Shilo, Manitoba tomorrow. North Way doesn't fly on Remembrance Day, so they rebooked me for Thursday morning to fly home. I'm here for another two days.

I’ve been gone from Shilo for too long, but my mom always says the Lord works in mysterious ways. I don’t know about that, but it is nice to stay home a bit longer and rest my mind. It's about time that I have a nice rest from everything, says my mom.  I guess it's a good time to go visit my grandmother again and show her some more pictures of us.

Evening: Well, today's visit around town was amazing. It's been so long since I was actually able to spend time with my nieces and nephews. I got to see what they have been doing in the community and for their families and it made me proud. All of them had so many questions about the Army, mainly just asking about guns and what not. Why do kids these days think we use American weapons? LOL, I guess I can blame the video games.

November 11

Morning: Today is Remembrance Day. The school had a moment of silence today. I stood out in front of my childhood home, thinking and remembering our fallen, remembering that members of the Canadian Armed Forces, past and present, have defended peace, security and Canadian values. Nothing formal was organized on the reserve, but everyone seemed to have a moment of silence.

Evening: Tonight was a surprise! I didn't know that the deputy chief, Donald Campbell, and a few of the council members had organized a feast for me. It was nice to see most of the community come together to enjoy a meal together, even though it was just the reserve celebrating a soldier coming home and leaving again. I'm glad my grandmother came by. She's the oldest member of my family and the eldest person in the reserve.

And, it was nice of the deputy chief to take pictures with me. They asked me to be in uniform while taking the photos with the deputy chief. My elders had someone pray for me. People were happy to see me here at home more than anything.

Well, I hope my plane arrives tomorrow.  I have seen so many friendly faces these past few days. Too bad it's going to be a long time till I get to see them again. I’m looking forward to seeing my family back in Manitoba, though.

November 12

My plane arrived and I'm on my way to my southern home in Shilo. These little planes are so loud I can barely hear my own thoughts. It was hard to see the crying faces of my family when I left the airport. I'm glad they all came to see me off. I didn’t realize that I had so much family who missed me so much. One day, I will return and, for sure, it will be for good.

By Corporal Tyler Meekis, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Date modified: