Sailor discusses being deployed during the holidays

Lifestyle - Life at Sea / December 20, 2019

Most people find it hard to be away from friends and family during the holidays. Although Petty Officer First Class Jeff Carter is no exception, he noted that being “at sea and away from home brings out the camaraderie of the ship’s company and provides a much-needed relaxing break from the operational routine,” said the Naval Communicator.

“One of the great customs of the Navy is the Junior Ranks Christmas Dinner. The Chiefs and Petty Officers, as well as the Officers, decorate the Junior Ranks’ dining area and serve them as a way of saying thank you for all they have done throughout the year,” explained PO1 Carter.

“The tradition also has the youngest sailor exchange rank and position with the Commanding Officer.”

As is tradition, the new ‘Commanding Officer’ presides over the festivities and the new ‘Ordinary Seaman’ serves them their meal prior to anyone else being served.

Though the crew’s thoughts are with their families back home, the focus is on each other in the ship.

“For many, this is their first time being away from their significant others or children during the holidays. For others, it is a change in routine that they need to adapt to. But the crew are amongst some of the best people they will meet in their lifetimes, and many they may not see again throughout their careers,” said Carter.

“Helping people focus on this and the fact that the mission that they are on is assisting in providing a more peaceful world goes a long way to bringing meaning and joy during a holiday deployment.”

This time of year also provides opportunities to be touched and surprised in ways you may not anticipate. Canadians often choose this time of year to express their gratitude for our service members and all of the work that they do to keep them safe at home and abroad.

“As silly as it may seem, the most meaningful gift I have ever received was a letter. While posted to the Naval Reserve unit in Regina, HMCS Queen, I was deployed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as part of a Forward Logistics Site, (and) I received a hand-written letter and card from Lynda Haverstock, the Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan,” he recalled.

“She took time out from her busy schedule to send a note wishing me a happy holiday season and to thank me for the sacrifices I was making on behalf of the province and the country in order to serve in the military. On investigation, I discovered that she did this for every CAF member of the Regular and Reserve force that was deployed from the province at this time. I still have this letter sitting on my desk at home.”

HMCS Ottawa returned to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C., on December 18, concluding a four-and-a-half-month deployment in the Asia-Pacific region, so PO1 Carter will be home this year with his family for the holidays. However, he will be thinking of those he has spent so much time with over the last months.

“I will arrive a week before Christmas, so I will be home with my family and friends. But I will miss everyone that I spent so much time with over the last year.”