Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Harris: A legacy of service

Navy News / November 5, 2020

Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2) Sara Harris is a Financial Services Supervisor aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HCMS) Winnipeg, who joined the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as a Reservist at HMCS Chippawa as a summer occupation to help pay for university.

“I joined the RCN at HMCS Chippawa for a summer job 30 years ago, it was either that or tree-planting, to pay for university and I am still here! I am serving on Winnipeg with someone I did Basic Training with at Chippawa who, until this deployment, I hadn’t seen in about 30 years.”

One of the biggest challenges PO2 Harris had endured during her tenure with the RCN was when she made the decision to move from the Reserve Force to the Regular Force.

“It meant having to leave the East Coast after many years there. It was quite a wrench as my parents had chosen to retire in Nova Scotia from Winnipeg just a few years earlier,” PO2 Harris explained.

“But, there is a quote from John Wooden that I used to have as part of my work email signature block – ‘Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.’ This is one of the things I tell myself when I am facing challenges that come my way.”

PO2 Harris decided to move to the Regular Force after spending close to a decade in the private sector, and what she finds to be the greatest contrast is how close-knit her shipmates are.

“The best part about being in the RCN is the camaraderie. The opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the country is also really great. But the main reason I switched from the Reserves to the Regular Force was to be able to sail on a Canadian Patrol Frigate, which is what I am doing right now! This is my favorite job so far,” explains PO2 Harris.

HMCS Winnipeg is currently deployed on Op NEON, as Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea.

Though this posting is close to three decades in the making for her, PO2 Harris’ most memorable and life-changing experience in the RCN happened at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ont., when she was a Reservist.

“My most memorable experience would be meeting my husband when we ended up on the same career course together at CFB Borden when he was a Reservist in the Army and I was a Reservist in the Navy,” said PO2 Harris.

“I can’t see that we would have met otherwise, as we are from different parts of the country and belong to different elements of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

This Remembrance Day, PO2 Harris would like us to acknowledge “that we have so much to be thankful for in Canada. We may sometimes take democracy for granted, but there are places in the world where it is currently under threat or non-existent.”

PO2 Harris’s family has a long history of military service and includes service by great-grandfathers, dating back to the Boer War, all the way through to service by an uncle in the Korean War, and now her current service in the RCN.

“Canada is not a super power but we have proven time and time again that we have an important role to play on the world stage,” said PO2 Harris.

In that light, PO2 Harris offers this quote by the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”