BURNABY, BC – Performing the role with grace and feeling, local man Connor McKenzie has never once in his time as a mall Santa let on that he fought for three years as part of the American-led coalition in Southern Afghanistan.
“He was so good with the kids,” said Veronica Liu, mother of Penny, who sat on McKenzie’s lap for three minutes, asked for a Minions lunch box for Christmas, and at no time suspected that McKenzie once narrowly escaped being blown to pieces by a roadside IED in Kandahar.
Liu is just one of many children to have sat on Santa’s knee, without realizing it was an elaborate prosthetic which had nearly bankrupted his family. The occasion was particularly special for Quentin Jones, 4, who was about to see the jolly old elf for the first time.
“Santy!” yelled Quentin as his turn was about to come up, convinced that Father Christmas was not only real, but also someone who hadn’t fought in a dubious, stretched-out war for a country that abandoned him when he returned.
Despite incessant triggers, such as crying children, popping balloons, and shattering Christmas ornaments, McKenzie disguised his flashbacks to Korangal Valley with bathroom breaks he said were the result of ‘drinking too much eggnog’.
Brentwood Town Centre plans to rehire McKenzie next year, citing his ‘popularity’, ‘professionalism’, and ‘unwillingness to reveal that he only accepted the job because he returned to Canada wounded and unable to pursue his real passion of playing violin for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.’