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The Late Sergeant William Stacey

 

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, last year Canadians witnessed the end of our 10-year combat role in Afghanistan, but this war continues, and it can still touch Canadians in unexpected ways.

My hometown of Louisbourg has produced a monthly newsletter since the 1940s called the Louisbourg Seagull. In the January 2012 edition, the Seagull highlighted the report by the Australian-American reporter embedded with the United States Marine Corps, featuring a story on Sergeant William Stacey, who was in the process of completing his fourth deployment to Afghanistan. Although he was only 23 years of age, among Sergeant Stacey's many commendations and decorations were the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan medal with two bronze devices and the NATO medal for ISAF Afghanistan, to name a few.

The U.S. Marine Corps has been deployed in Afghanistan to serve in support of the ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, mission. This, honourable senators, is the same mission that our own Canadian Forces have so bravely undertaken for the people of Afghanistan.

It was quite evident that both the reporter and the men who served with Sergeant Stacey held him in the highest esteem.

Sergeant William Stacey is no stranger to my hometown. The Stacey family is well-known and long-established in the Louisbourg area. The Staceys are true Cape Bretoners.

Although William and his parents are American citizens, his grandfather Frank faithfully made a pilgrimage home with his family for decades, ensuring that his children and grandchildren would stay in touch with their Cape Breton roots. I have so many fond memories of Frank's family, particularly his late brothers Charlie and George, and have heard many stories of his late father, Wylie.

Although he grew up in Seattle, Washington, young William Stacey, from infancy until he joined the marines, made the regular trek to Louisbourg as well. He loved his grandfather's little hometown and could not wait to get back every summer so he could head to the wharf with his fishing rod and catch the mackerel when they were running.

In the February 2012 edition of the Seagull there was an addendum to the publication. On January 31, 2012, while on foot patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Sergeant Stacey and his colleagues were hit by the blast of an improvised explosive device, otherwise known as an IED, an acronym we have all become too familiar with hearing. One person was injured and there was one fatality, Sergeant William Stacey. He was 23 years old.

Since the report of William's death, the sergeant has been remembered as the confident and charismatic individual that he was, one who was highly respected by his fellow marines.

Lawrence Dabney, the author of the January article aforementioned, wrote:

Will was one of the most impressive human beings I have ever met. Every word I wrote about him in that article was honest and true. That he will not grow into the incredible man he would have been is a tragedy that is going to take me some time to come to terms with. . . In a few years he left an outsized footprint on the world.

Honourable senators, I would like to share a portion of the letter Sergeant Stacey left to his parents, Bob and Robin, in the event of his death.

My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built . . . He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.

I was deeply moved by Sergeant Stacey's words. They speak directly to the spirit of the mission in Afghanistan. Every marine, soldier, sailor and airman or woman, whatever their nationality, should be commended for the bravery they show in fighting for the people of Afghanistan. It is about much more than combating terrorism. It is a mission for those defenceless against insurgency and a mission to provide freedom to the less fortunate.

Because of men like Sergeant Stacey, the children of Afghanistan will enjoy the gift of freedom: free to go to school, free to live without fear.

On behalf of my hometown of Louisbourg and the Senate of Canada, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolences to his father Bob, his mother Robin, his grandparents and all the extended Stacey family. Sergeant Stacey will be buried later this month in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His family will also be erecting a monument to him in the family plot in Louisbourg, the little town in Cape Breton that was his home away from home.

May God bless and rest the soul of Sergeant William Stacey and may perpetual light shine upon him.