Double Homecoming

Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, Rear-Admiral Art McDonald (centre), salutes HMCS Winnipeg as the ship arrives at CFB Esquimalt. Photo by LS Sisi Xu, MARPAC Imaging Services

Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, Rear-Admiral Art McDonald (centre), salutes HMCS Winnipeg as the ship arrives at CFB Esquimalt. Photo by LS Sisi Xu, MARPAC Imaging Services

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The return of HMC Ships Ottawa and Winnipeg last Tuesday, after five months away, featured an emotional first kiss and two surprise wedding proposals.

First down the gangplank of Ottawa was Sub-Lieutenant Kassandra O’Rourke, straight into the arms of her partner of seven years Eleni Holmes.

“I missed everything about her,” said Holmes moments before ascending the ramp to embrace SLt O’Rourke. “I’m extremely nervous and excited right now and hoping I don’t start welling up and crying when we kiss.” 

Next off the ship was the ship’s cook, Corporal Robert Basso, who slipped to one knee in front of his girlfriend Kacie Sutton.

“I had this planned for a while, she had no idea,” he said after proposing in front of a throng of local media and a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered on A jetty to welcome the ships home.

When she said “yes” the crowd and crew onboard the ship let out a loud cheer as the two kissed and embraced.

“As the ship pulled alongside I didn’t see anyone else but him standing there on the deck waving at me,” said Sutton. “When he popped the question it was a total surprise.”

Moments after the proposal, Ottawa’s Commanding Officer, Commander Sylvain Belair stopped by to congratulate the happy couple.

“Coming alongside is always special for the entire team, but being able to share in a family moment like this is extraordinary,” said Cdr Belair. “Corporal Basso had this proposal on his mind throughout the deployment, and knowing he was going to go ahead and make it happen was met with great support from everyone.”

The emotion of returning home was not lost on Winnipeg’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Jeff Hutchinson, who said he was looking forward to spending some quality time with his wife Jin.

“The thrill of being home won’t wear off for a long time,” he said. “Just as we go through a lot when we go away, they go through just as much and even more difficult times.

That’s a huge part of the strength of our sailors – that they have loved ones who keep things going on the home front.”

Yet another surprise proposal added to the emotion and excitement when Leading Seamen Kyle Pillar, the first sailor to disembark Winnipeg, dropped to his knee on the gang plank in front of his girlfriend Emily Norman and to asked for her hand in marriage.

Both ships were deployed on Poseidon Cutlass 17, where they engaged in exercises with Indo-Asia-Pacific regional partner navies at sea, and took part in key events and engagements in ports across the region.

During the deployment the Canadian warships visited 14 ports of call in China, Guam, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka and the United States.

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