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    Default Bon Chance Hmcs Winnipeg

    Winnipeg departs for Gulf mission

    Judith Lavoie Times Colonist April 11, 2005

    The last few minutes are really hard.

    As the band plays and it's time for the last hug, even those who have put on a brave face surreptitiously wipe their eyes as they climb the gangplank.

    HMCS Winnipeg, with 225 officers and sailors and a Sea King helicopter detachment from 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at Pat Bay, left Esquimalt Sunday morning for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.

    The chilly wind whipping across the jetty did little to lift spirits as families prepared for the separation.

    Amy Lesieur stood to one side, blinking back tears, after saying goodbye to her husband, Leading Seaman Dominic Lesieur.

    In the stroller, Ethan, who will be two on Saturday, didn't stay awake long enough to say goodbye.

    "It will be difficult, especially with another one on the way. The baby's due in August," she said, patting her belly.

    "With a newborn and a two-year-old I'm going to have my hands full, but I've got a lot of family coming out and I think I can handle it."

    Ethan, who was premature, is on oxygen most of the time, but no complications are expected with the second pregnancy, Lesieur said.

    E-mails and phone calls will help ease the time apart, she said.

    "A little piece of both of us wishes he didn't have to go, but it is good for his career," she said.

    Lt. (N) Audrey Topshee, Winnipeg's supply officer, remained calm as she dealt with three-and-a-half year old Amy and two-year-old Zoe.

    But, there were intermittent tears from the kids as they sensed something strange in the air.

    "The longest I have been away from the girls before is one month," Topshee said, as Zoe and Amy waved outsize felt flowers.

    "I have been focusing on explaining to Amy that I am coming back."

    Topshee has had a year to prepare for the Gulf, but she was not expecting the news in January that her husband, an officer on HMCS Calgary, was being posted to staff college in Newport, Rhode Island, while she is away.

    That means the family has to pack up and leave Victoria -- where Topshee has lived for nine years -- while she is at sea.

    "It makes it a little more complicated for us," she said. "When I get home in October, my home will be gone. I've spent the last month saying goodbye to people. It has been very sad."

    There are complications, such as her husband having to arrange childcare in a strange community, but the flip side is that she is about to do a job she has spent years training for, Topshee said.

    "As a logistics officer, I don't have sea tours all that often."

    For many families, there is concern that young children will forget the parent who is away.

    Alexandra Hick is not sure whether 11-month-old Brianna will remember daddy -- Acting Sub-Lieutenant Robert Hick -- when he comes home.

    However, three-and-a-half-year-old Tessa has made sure her dad does not forget her.

    "She got a little bag and blew a whole bunch of kisses into it so he can take it on the ship with him," her mother said.

    The farewell ceremony was led by Commodore Roger Girouard, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, and Keith Martin, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Liberal MP.

    There will be "a little bit of unpredictability" about the mission as the Gulf region is still unstable, but the deployment could not be called dangerous, Girouard said.

    One of the hardest parts is leaving home, he said. "Life as a sailor means periods of separation and that hits home -- I've been there," he said.

    "It's hard when you are not there for the kids as much as you might want and it's a long time between hugs, but that's part of being a sailor."

    While in the Persian Gulf, Winnipeg with work with the 5th Fleet of the United States navy in the campaign against terrorism, conducting surveillance patrols and interdiction operations.

    PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist
    Cpl. James McIver gives one last hug to wife Paula and 10-month-old son Owen before HMCS Winnipeg left for a six-month deployment Sunday.

    Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
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