There are so many ways to describe Shawn Eades. His wife loved him dearly because he was magnetic and strong, and yet got great joy out of tickle-wrestling with his tiny daughters and bringing home kittens to be part of their growing family. He was gentlemanly in an old-fashioned way, yet principled, and knew when to take a stand. His little girls remember his big and boisterous “haha” laugh. Shawn was practical about the dangers his work placed him in, and sensibly planned forward for his family’s well-being for the “what if” possibility that all military families face.

Friends and family recall his commitment to Free Masrony, whose philosophies reflected his ethical and thoughtful approach to life. As a Free Mason, Shawn gave and received the kinship so essential to his nature, and was enriched by its degree rites and rituals. He was a man of faith, but kept an open mind, thriving on intelligent and philosophical conversation.

In Afghanistan, Shawn was known for his hard work and common sense, never taking unnecessary risks or letting those around him do so. Shawn’s fellow soldiers knew him as disciplined, tough, and methodical — and not a little competitive! These were traits essential to his character and were reflected in his skill in Jiu-Jitsu, in which he held a Black Belt. Together, these strengths saw Shawn through three rotations to Afghanistan, the first shortly after 9-11, followed by one in 2006, and his last one in 2008.

While he never complained about the situation there, never said he didn’t want to go, and never turned down a task, he was nevertheless shocked by the conditions in which the Canadian military and the Afghan people found themselves. His senses were overwhelmed: sight, touch, smell, taste. The heat, the poverty, the terrible food (or lack of it) – and the constant, irritating grit of the sand – all were harsh reminders of the gaps between our two worlds. This made the food packages sent from home – which he shared – small but treasured prizes.

As a senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician, Shawn and his team were, unfortunately, in high demand. His fellow soldiers have said Shawn was a great role model and that they “wanted to be that guy”. Shawn’s goal was to be a career soldier, achieving the rank of Sgt-Major. Having joined the air cadets at age 12, the military life and Shawn just seemed to suit each other. He was a natural fit as an engineer right out of basic training at CFB Gagetown, followed by several years at CFB Chilliwack until his regiment was transferred to CFB Edmonton in the 1990s.

While Shawn will not again see the prairies and the rural farm life he came to love so much during his teenage years in Manitoba, he had shared with those he ultimately left behind that “the job came first”, and that he felt slow progress was being made in Afghanistan as Afghans began to feel just a bit safer. The effort, he felt, would serve some purpose — and not be in vain.

By Nancy Bateman

Portrait by Shairl Honey