Small in stature, but with a huge heart and even bigger smile, Zachery Wilfrid McCormack had a knack for making everyone around him laugh. He was a fun-loving, bright light who enjoyed wrestling. In fact, he liked the sport so much that he belonged to the Salisbury Wrestling Club from junior high school and on. He also participated in several championship tournaments. Perhaps that’s one reason he pushed his body to the limit and avoided junk food.

Roller coasters and adventure were important words in Zachery’s vocabulary, as were paintball and camping. He was always willing to try new activities and foods. His quiet and gentle nature was ever there, in the background, waiting to help people even if he didn’t know them. And somehow with his busy life, he also managed to participate in an electrician apprenticeship program.

He graduated from Salisbury Composite High School in Sherwood Park in 2006, and decided to join the Canadian Armed Forces as a reservist the same year. The Forces was a good fit for his disciplined personality. In 2008 he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. He was proud of his country, passionate about his family, and extremely excited about the prospect of marrying his fiancée when he returned home.

Zach was allergic to dogs. But that didn’t stop him from opening his heart to save an abused puppy from Afghanistan children who were swinging it by the neck. He named it Napoleon and shared his food with it for over a month.

He planned to continue with his wrestling passion when he returned to Canada. But he missed that opportunity and his last Christmas dinner, in 2009. When supper was served at the camp, Zach was out on patrol, breathing in dust in the service of his country.

By Susan Blackman Abma

Portrait by Susan Abma