PEI veteran and activist Dennis MacKenzie will release his debut full-length album The Guardian Angel Platoon on November 10.
Songwriting and guitar playing has helped MacKenzie to cope with the trauma that he and other veterans experienced during their time at war, and also a way to shed light on a tremendously overlooked issue in veterans’ affairs.
During his nine years in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment which included a deployment to Afghanistan, MacKenzie lost ten of his comrades. Following his return to Canada, MacKenzie lost more colleagues and friends to suicide than he did during his deployment.
A leader in veterans affairs in PEI and across the country, MacKenzie was invited to hold a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019 to discuss veteran mental health and the ongoing crises Canadian veterans face after returning home from war. Now, having teamed up with Dennis Ellsworth and Adam Gallant to bring his music to life, MacKenzie’s upcoming album aims to shed light on those who lose the battle of war at home, and to destigmatize the conversation surrounding suicide.
The Guardian Angel Platoon chronologically follows MacKenzie’s journey as a soldier. “End of the Rainbow”is a song about the military training process. “Lanterns” is a flags at half mast, the “highway of heroes” and the naming of streets, bridges, ships and parks in their honour. “Easter Sunday” has a more upbeat rhythm that directly contrasts the devastating lyrics, describing the loss of six Canadian soldiers on Easter Sunday in 2007. “Why Didn’t You Say Goodbye”is about the sudden loss of his close friend who took his own life. The album also includes spoken interludes of actual letters MacKenzie wrote during his time with the military.
The album will be sold with a commemorative pin inspired by the design of a military-used lantern, which MacKenzie hopes can be worn alongside the poppy in honour of all those killed by war, both at home and abroad.