For as long as his family and his teachers can remember, Dustin had a keen desire to explore and learn new things. He was a ferocious reader from the time he was a kid, reading over 200 books one summer, many about animals. He even played a type of Jeopardy with an elderly neighbour, who called Dustin “Einstein,” as they constantly teased and tested out each other’s knowledge. Dustin often read to his little sister, helping to instill in her an equally abiding love of the written word. Dustin played guitar, hockey, and ball. He was good at drawing, winning awards for his Remembrance Day posters. Growing up on the family farm in Saskatchewan, Dustin adored animals. He helped his dad with the cattle, was active in the 4-H Club for nine years, and was known to help the younger kids along. He was also a natural at carpentry. His occasional mentions of joining the army seemed curious to some adults around him, since his big sense of fun seemed to make him an unlikely candidate for that life.

As it turned out, Dustin’s dream upon graduating high school was to join the RCMP, and he passed the required tests with flying colours. By the time his RCMP recruitment call came two years later, however, he had enlisted in the army. He completed basic training in 2005, followed by Combat Engineer training at CFB Gagetown. Dustin also completed the Mountain Operations Course in British Columbia, and did his deployment training at CFO Wainwright and CFB Shilo. Dustin told his mother that the delay in joining the RCMP turned out to be the best thing to have happened, because it led him instead to that perfect niche in the Canadian Forces where he could fulfill his belief that “he was put on this earth to make a difference.” Dustin loved being a soldier and was especially keen about engineer work, a crucial aspect of the Afghanistan mission.

Dustin married in Spiritwood in 2006, taking his vows on the same day as his parents’ 25th anniversary and his grandparents’ 50th anniversary. He was a caring family man, always with a sense of fun – being a bit of a jokester. Dustin took some ribbing about being a huge Saskatchewan Roughriders fan, and was known by several nicknames including Dusty, Wazzy or Goose – due to his big red moustache! While his job took him far from home, his strong family values took him home as often as possible to the family farm to visit friends and especially his grandparents, who were dear to him.

It was a special day when Dustin finally got to wear – and show off – his “tans,” the desert uniform. His excitement about going overseas was unbounded, and once there he became known as a serious soldier with a passion for the mission. His thoughtful nature surfaced when he took a young Afghan boy under his wing, someone he mentioned to his mother as simply “the kid.” Dustin would often read to the boy and in his calls home, he said that one day he would return to help the children of Afghanistan have a life that we, in Canada, take for granted. True to this commitment, Dustin had studied the language to be able to converse with the local Afghans.

Following his death, Dustin’s fondness for young people was honoured through a Christmas fundraiser by his church in Spiritwood, with a donation of $10,000 going to the new Childrens’ Hospital of Saskatchewan. Dustin’s service to Canada is a family tradition. Wasden Lake in northern Saskatchewan commemorates the life of his great-uncle, Harold Douglas Wasden, who died in the Netherlands while serving in the Second World War. The Province of Saskatchewan has named an island in the beautiful northern reaches of Wasden Lake as Dustin Wasden Island, in bittersweet remembrance of Dustin’s life.

By Nancy G. Bateman

Portrait by Cindy Revell