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Navy ship pays tribute to Cape Breton soldier who died in Afghanistan

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The crew of a Halifax-based Royal Canadian Navy ship is formally honouring the memory of a soldier from Cape Breton who died in Afghanistan nearly 14 years ago.

Sgt. Jimmy MacNeil of Glace Bay, N.S., was killed by a roadside bomb on June 21, 2010 about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.

In a lasting tribute, the chief and petty officer’s mess aboard H.M.C.S. Glace Bay is being renamed in memory of MacNeil.

The coastal defence vessel’s commanding officer, Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Morrison, said the tribute’s origins date back to Remembrance Day ceremonies held last fall in Glace Bay that were attended by the ship’s company.

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Morrison said the crew noticed a car nearby that was vinyl wrapped with an image of MacNeil and after a few inquiries, they found out it belonged to the late soldier’s father, Jimmy MacNeil Sr.

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“We are trying to find ways to build linkages with our namesake city of Glace Bay,” said Morrison. ““For us it was a logical extension to try to find a way to incorporate Sgt. MacNeil’s memory as we attempt to honour all of the service that’s happened through Glace Bay residents.”

The ship’s coxswain, Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Sinclair, was among several crewmembers who travelled to the Glace Bay Legion Saturday, where they marked the occasion with MacNeil’s father.

Sinclair said once the ship returns to Halifax, a commemorative plaque will be designed for the door of the mess.

“It will include a photo of Sgt. McNeil and a small write-up on his time in Afghanistan and service career,” he said.

The 45-member crew of Glace Bay has spent the last two weeks training on Cape Breton’s Bras d’Or Lake in preparation for a mid-July deployment to the Baltic Sea as part of a NATO mine countermeasures mission.

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