Cpl. Mark McLaren knew from a young age that he wanted to be a soldier. In high school, he spent the second semester of Grade 10 in a student military work program. The following summer he took a six-week basic training session. He later worked half-day each week as a reservist and then joined the regular Forces in 2007.

Part of what attracted Mark to the military was his interest in the history of weapons and his talents with computer applications such as GPS tracking. He also believed he was helping others through his military service. Mark was proud of his work and often shared stories of his experiences with people who were interested in learning about what he did in the Armed Forces. His fellow soldiers enjoyed working with him because he was easy going and dependable.

An exemplary soldier, Mark spent two tours in Afghanistan. On his last tour, he served on a special liaison team that was training the Afghan national army. He earned a Medal of Military Valour for heroic actions in battle; he crawled through gunfire to rescue and administer first aid to an injured Afghan soldier, who was his team’s interpreter. Mark’s willingness to risk his own life to save another stemmed from his selfless, compassionate nature.

Mark’s friends and family admired him as a kind and caring person who loved to give warm, strong hugs. He was bright and always dedicated himself fully to every task he undertook. In school, he once wrote an assignment on Star Wars. When the essay came to 45 pages, Mark worried that it was too long—so he rewrote it to “only” half that length. He was also talented at computer games, which he sometimes played for hours.

In June 2014, the hero-class Canadian Coast Guard vessel “CCGS Cpl. Mclaren M.M.V.” was named after and dedicated to Mark. It will serve as a fisheries patrol vessel involved in conservation, protection, and search and rescue on the Atlantic coast.

By: Tracey L. Anderson

Portrait by Shairl Honey