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Second Canadian warship returns to Halifax from relief effort in Haiti

Eight-year-old Sarah-Lynn Acker stood with her five-year-old brother Cody, bouncing up and down and waving her arms in the air.

"I love you, Daddy," she yelled Wednesday morning.

Although Able Seaman Gary Acker was still too far away to hear, the message was loud and clear.

Twins Hannah and Ben, 10, get a hug from their dad Master Seaman Leo Siggerbergsson as he and the rest of the crew of HMCS Athabaskan arrive at HMC Dockyards in Halifax, N.S., Wednesday. - Photo by The Canadian Press

Halifax -

Eight-year-old Sarah-Lynn Acker stood with her five-year-old brother Cody, bouncing up and down and waving her arms in the air.

"I love you, Daddy," she yelled Wednesday morning.

Although Able Seaman Gary Acker was still too far away to hear, the message was loud and clear.

And it echoed around the jetty, as well-wishers with balloons and banners anxiously waited to greet the sailors, soldiers and air force members who called HMCS Athabaskan home for the past two months.

Just 63 days earlier, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax sailed off with just a day's notice on a mission of mercy to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Their job was to deliver humanitarian aid to the impoverished nation after the quake claimed as many as 500,000. For Athabaskan's crew, that help included providing medical aid, shelter, food and water to the people in the devastated area of Leogane, just 29 kilometres west of the capital of Port-au-Prince.

On Wednesday, with the ship's signal flags bearing the message "We Help as One," a modified version of the ship's normal motto, "We fight as One," the crew came home.

"I can proudly say that Atha-baskan mission accomplished," said Cmdr. Peter Crain later.

As the 130-metre-long destroyer approached the jetty, family members spoke with pride of the job their loved ones had done during their mission of mercy.

"Amazing? Extraordinary?" Linda Peddle offered as descriptions for the work the crew, including her husband Scott.

"I'm very proud," she said as she waited with her son Benjamin, daughter Lesley and Lesley's boyfriend Zach Zinck by her side.

"My husband is a little overwhelmed with all the support back here he's heard about. The way he feels, he was just doing his job."

But that job was key, military officials said.

"From the time we arrived, we knew our job was to jump-start the recovery effort. I think we did that," said Capt. (Navy) Art McDonald, leader of Canada's naval effort in Haiti.

"When we arrived, we saw desperate need and we went to work right away. We made a lot of progress. ... I think we started the momentum that should hopefully lead to something better as time goes forward."

McDonald said the Athabaskan crew was impressed with the resilience of the Haitian people they came to know and work with. He said the crew came home changed by what they saw.

"You probably today just received 280 better Canadians because of their experiences down in Haiti."

Although Crain said the crew saw "some extreme medical trauma," the mission was a positive one.

"When you walk around, talk to the ship's company, you will have people with 20 years in saying it was the pinnacle of their career," he said.

"It was the best deployment of their military lives."

Ordinary Seaman Andrew Nelson, 19, said he's proud of the Canadian accomplishments ashore.

"We had a feeling we were there for a reason, for sure," he said.

HMCS Halifax returned home March 2.

Geographic location: Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Billy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Thank you, Athabaskan & Halifax! Thank you, Canada! You are neighbours to be proud of.

  • Barbara
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    To fight as One or to Help as One. Our Boys and Girls in the Service put it on the line daily whether deployed on a Mission of Mercy or to a War Zone. They deserve all our THANKS for sure. WE go about our daily lives most of us never seeing the heartbreak and misery these people see, and away from family months and months at a time. Yes we all know that it is a part of it but it should be noted that for these people, it is not easy. and Yes they are paid but everyone deserves a Thank you from time to time to know that they are appreciated. They deserve to Know that we are very Proud of them. They all make me proud to be Canadian. So Thank you to all our Service Men and Women home or abroad.

  • Billy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Thank you, Athabaskan & Halifax! Thank you, Canada! You are neighbours to be proud of.

  • Barbara
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    To fight as One or to Help as One. Our Boys and Girls in the Service put it on the line daily whether deployed on a Mission of Mercy or to a War Zone. They deserve all our THANKS for sure. WE go about our daily lives most of us never seeing the heartbreak and misery these people see, and away from family months and months at a time. Yes we all know that it is a part of it but it should be noted that for these people, it is not easy. and Yes they are paid but everyone deserves a Thank you from time to time to know that they are appreciated. They deserve to Know that we are very Proud of them. They all make me proud to be Canadian. So Thank you to all our Service Men and Women home or abroad.