He was known to the world as Warrant Officer Michael Robert McNeil, but to his family he was just Little Mike.
Loved ones gathered in Truro, N.S., on Thursday to say goodbye to the Afghanistan war veteran after his body was found at CFB Petawawa on Nov. 27.
McNeil was 39. His was one of four apparent military suicides in two weeks.
Barry Mellish said his nephew was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his last tour in Afghanistan, but his death came as a shock.
"He seemed to be a very strong individual. He was always there to help anybody else who was down or worried. He was the first one to stand up," he said. "Michael was a helper.
"I never once dreamed he'd do something like this."
McNeil is survived by three children and one stepson.
Military personnel and civilians from the area packed into the Truro Armoury for the funeral around 11 a.m. AT.
McNeil grew up in the Nova Scotia town, about an hour outside of Halifax, where he joined the cadets as a teen before eventually starting a career in the military.
"Our hearts are truly broken," said Kendra Mellish, who described McNeil as one of her best friends. The widow of Frank Mellish, McNeil’s cousin, spoke at the poignant ceremony. Mellish died in a Taliban bombing in Afghanistan in 2006.
Mellish said the circumstances around his death has left many with unanswered questions.
'There is no need to suffer. There is help out there. Go get help.'- Kendra Mellish
"But remember, first and foremost, Michael is so much more than that. He loved life, and he loved to laugh. We do not have the answers as to why. I would suggest today we find peace in our hearts knowing he isn't returning home, he is with his loved ones who went before him."
Mellish then turned her attention to the crowd and delivered an emotional message.
"I am confident, without a doubt, that there is someone here today who is suffering as Michael was suffering. You are suffering in silence. There is no need to suffer. There is help out there. Go get help."
PTSD in the spotlight
The four deaths have put the spotlight on how the military deals with soldiers with PTSD.
McNeil’s death follows those of Master Cpl.William Elliott, who died at his home near CFB Shilo in southwestern Manitoba, and Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, who died in a Lethbridge, Alta., hospital after a suicide attempt in a jail.
Then came the shocking news that military police are investigating the death of a member at CFB Valcartier in Quebec.
Capt. Mathieu Dufour, public affairs officer at Valcartier Garrison, confirmed that Master Cpl. Sylvain Lelièvre was found dead in his home on Monday.