Smiles, hugs and tears were all around at the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt Monday as family and friends gathered to welcome home their loved ones.
HMCS Regina returned to Esquimalt on Monday after a six and a half months deployment to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. The ship left on Feb. 6 — a date that has been etched on the minds of many at today’s homecoming — and sailed on Operation Projection. Crews worked with partner navies and conducted key leader engagement in order to enhance military cooperation and partnership in support of Canada’s diplomatic efforts in the region.
A group of about 30 family members watched the ship sail by with signs and smiles on its way to the dock. Michael Miller, a chief petty officer for the navy, his wife Toni and their soon to be daughter-in-law, Melody Bailey, waved frantically as the massive steel boat went by.
“This is his first long trip,” said Michael while waiting for his son Ford, a leading seaman on the HMCS Regina. “For me, it’s been over 30 years since I was on a trip this long so it’s a pretty special moment.”
“It’s been 194 days,” said Bailey confidently when asked how long Ford had been gone, obviously counting down the days.
Bailey was able to visit Ford in Tokyo where he popped the question at the top of the Tokyo Tower about five weeks ago, during one of several port visits made by the ship.
“It wasn’t too long ago, but it’s been long enough,” she said. HMCS Regina also visited Guam, Hawaii, United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Singapore, Oman and Australia while deployed.
While away the vessel participated in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE, a biennial Australian and United Stated bilateral exercise designed to train partner military forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations and to improve combat readiness and inter-operability. The exercises took place from July 11 to 24 in the vicinity of Queensland, Australia. It involved 25,000 personnel operating across the maritime, land and air domains from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Japan and the U.K.
When the ship finally docked at the base with hundreds of family members and friends cheering, the Miller family made their way on and found Ford.
With his arm wrapped around Bailey, his parents looking proudly on and a smile plastered to his face, Ford was finally back with his family.
“I’m so excited, I’m home with my honey,” he said. “It’s been a really long sail, it’s nice to be back.”
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