North

On Remembrance Day, Iqaluit-born veteran reflects on tours abroad, friends lost

For Iqaluit-born Harry Eegeesiak, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 22 years, Remembrance Day is about remembering his buddies - both those who made it home from his tours abroad, and those who didn't.

'I have friends, good friends, that never came home. I still visit their graves'

Harry Eegeesiak, left, served overseas in tours in Kuwait, Kosovo, and Bosnia. (submitted by Harry Eegeesiak)

For Iqaluit-born Harry Eegeesiak, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 22 years, Remembrance Day is about remembering his buddies.

"I have friends, good friends, that never came home. I still visit their graves and say 'hey, I miss ya.'"

Eegeesiak retired in 2008 after a career as a combat engineer. He served overseas in peacekeeping missions in Kuwait, Kosovo and Bosnia.

His job was building and maintaining infrastructure such as roads, airfields and bridges, as well as detecting and removing mines.

"We had to do our job," he says. "Defusing mines, making the roads and paths serviceable so observers can drive to and from the border."
Eegeesiak, centre, stands with his 'brothers from another mother.' Eegeesiak, who retired in 2008, says he uses Remembrance Day as a time to remember his friends in the military who didn't make it back from overseas. (submitted by Harry Eegeesiak)

He fondly remembers doing an interview with CBC North in Inuktitut from the middle of a desert, with a public affairs officer who didn't speak the language trying to coach him.

"I'm proud to be Inuk," he says.

Over his years of service, Eegeesiak took leadership courses but tried to stay doing the jobs he loved.

"I didn't want to go any higher than a corporal. I didn't want a desk job. I didn't want to do paperwork. I wanted to be outside, get dirty, drive things — drive tanks, heavy equipment."

"What really stuck out to me was the camaraderie," he said. "The men I served with, they were very good to me. We were all brothers. From a different mother," he added, with a laugh.

However, some of Eegeesiak's friends never returned home. For him, November 11 is a day to keep them in his heart, and for all Canadians to honour their memories.

"My Remembrance Day is all the friends, and families of my brothers in arms," he said. "We were all front line troops. Some men never got home to their families. I won't be able to play hockey with them no more, I won't be able to play ball. I know quite a few of them.

Freedom isn't free. Remembrance is to remember them for their sacrifice."

With files from Qavavao Peter

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