Life at sea: honouring home

A light morning breeze laps at the hull of HMCS Charlottetown.

Thousands of miles from home, the dedicated crew, like many before them, rise and prepare for their daily watches. Thoughts of home inevitably come to mind, but they can’t dwell on them for long; their job needs to be done.

This is the inevitable challenge of serving in an operational warship: balancing the imperatives of the mission with the needs of the crew. Missing home, and how people deal with missing their loved ones during a lengthy deployment, are big pieces of the puzzle.

“I miss kissing my son goodnight,” says SLt Danielle Turner, who plays the dual role of mother and bridge watchkeeper. “I miss being his mom, being his hero, and giving him everything I’ve got, because I know in a short while I will be at sea again.”

Regardless of occupation, we all share this burden – sailors, soldiers, airwomen and airmen. Everyone in the Canadian Forces eventually sacrifices precious time with family and friends to accomplish the mission. It’s the nature of what we do.

It is important, however, to recognize that we aren’t the only ones affected by separation: our families and friends are in it with us.

Our spouses miss us as much as we miss them, while also shouldering the responsibilities of the household on top of working at their own career.

Service in the CF is more than a job, it’s a commitment. We make our sacrifices together, for shared purposes, and the experience binds us not just as individuals and families; but also as a crew. It is how we make up for lost time with those who matter most in our lives, and the fact that we do so collectively, that make it easier to soldier on.

“I make up for lost time by writing in a journal to my son,” SLt Turner says. “Even if he doesn’t appreciate it as much as I’d want him to when he is older, it helps to get through the long, lonely nights. I write so I will be able to answer his questions about what I do, where I go, and – most importantly – why I do what I do, and to assure him that he was never far from my thoughts and heart during my time away.”

Sonar operator LS Matt Stark is a father of two daughters: a 12-year-old and a toddler who just turned one.

“I call home almost every night. My 12-year-old, Mackenzie, loves to hear about where I’ve been,” he says proudly. “I have four pre-recorded DVDs that I watch once or twice a week before bed, of my girls and family. It gives me an escape for even a few minutes, which is priceless.”

Charlottetown is currently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea for Operation Active Endeavour, the NATO counter-terrorism mission.

Story By: SLt Emily Todd, HMCS Charlottetown

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