On Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 members of HMCS Winnipeg departed the familiar hilly landscape of Victoria, for the golden wheat fields of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
With the goal of connecting the people of Winnipeg with their namesake ship, this small contingent of sailors worked diligently to engage the community and help reinforce those vital and historic ties the ship has with the city.
The crew had a busy schedule that included meeting different charities and community groups.
They conducted a number of engagements with government officials and business leaders, reaffirming the importance of the navy to people who may not see the work that we do on a continual basis. They also spoke to a class of political science students at the University of Manitoba who will one day help shape the policies of our corporations and governments.
Sailors visited Winnipeg Harvest, a community food distribution and training centre that provides 55,000 people each month with food. The crew helped package and organize food before its distribution to the various community shelters.
The following day saw them participating in a school breakfast program, providing food to disadvantaged youth. This community based program relies on donations to provide food to those who may not have an opportunity to eat at home, helping young kids to concentrate and learn without worry about how hungry they are. It was a fantastic program and the opportunity to talk about the navy was something none of the sailors will soon forget.
They also had the opportunity to visit veterans at the Deer Lodge Veterans home, which was an opportunity to listen to the stories and experiences of former service members.
An unfortunate death of a Winnipeg fire fighter cancelled a presentation to the Winnipeg Fire Department burn fund; however, the members of HMCS Winnipeg were honoured to take part in the funeral ceremony as part of the honour guard. This moving tribute to one of Winnipeg’s own was an incredible experience, and while the sailors did not know the man, it was clear by the 800-plus people who attended his service and the kind words they spoke of him, that he would be truly missed by the community.
The final day was a full one, starting off with participation in a Habitat for Humanity build; the officers and crew put on their tool belts and helped finish floors and build walls.
After a quick meal and shower it was off to a Blue Bombers game where they proudly represented the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Navy by conducting the flag ceremony during the national anthem.
The Blue Bombers organization treated them like VIPs and all access passes gave the best seats in the house. It was an exciting game as the Bombers pushed passed Hamilton for only their third win of the season.
After a busy week, they boarded the plane for home, knowing the connections they made with the city will ensure the strong ties HMCS Winnipeg has with its namesake city will continue for many years to come.
Lt(N) Sean Bruce, HMCS Winnipeg
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