Two months back my son left the Air Force Reserves to join the Regular Forces, leaving home to join the Navy ship, H.M.C.S. Halifax. Even though he’s on a Navy ship, he’s still a proud member of the Air Force.
The ship he’s on can deploy the CH-124 Sea King helicopter, designed to seek out and destroy submarines. It has a helicopter deck fitted with what’s called a “bear trap” allowing the launch and recovery of helicopters at sea. In my Mommy mind, it’s a war ship.
Pride & worry
The Halifax carries weapons, like an anti-submarine weapon torpedo-thing. As I found out on Google, there’s a “RGM-84 Harpoon Block 1C surface-to-surface missile,” and for anti-aircraft self-defence the ship is also “armed with the Sea Sparrow vertical launch surface-to-air missile in two Mk 48 Mod 0 eight-cell launchers placed port and starboard of the funnel.”
There’s 16 missiles, a Raytheon/General Dynamics Phalanx Mark 15 Mod 21 Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) for “last-ditch” defence against targets that evade the Sea Sparrow. For good measure, there’s plenty of guns, one capable of firing 2.4-kilogram (5.3 lb) shells at a rate of 220 rounds per minute at a range of more than 17 kilometres.
Dear Lord, give me strength.
Let’s face it, none of the above is really great Mommy information to have when the kid you used to hold onto so tightly is sitting on a real-life version of a military-grade Lego model. The Halifax has seen a few things in its day.
From naval blockade work in the Adriatic Sea, to taking part in the NATO naval exercise “Linked Seas” off Portugal and the “Strong Resolve” off Norway to assisting in recovery following the crash of Swissair Flight 111, the ship my son sails on has made many a Canadian proud – and many a loved one worry. Eager to see the world, my lad took off to sea. Ironically, two weeks later, The Halifax sailed into St. John’s Harbour.
While that no doubt annoyed my boy, it made his Mommy very happy – at least at first. I drove down constantly just to stare at the ship. I listened. I watched.
On the day the ship left, I took my work to the deck at Atlantic Place and I stayed put as The Halifax prepared to sail away. Using the camera’s zoom, I spied like a mad woman on a mission as the many military men and women prepared for their next sailing adventure.
Wished for more time
As the ship pulled away, I bawled like a baby. It was in that moment I realized my baby is gone. He’s on a three year mission at sea and when he returns to our NL home – if he does – it will be as a guest.
I took pictures. I posed for a few selfies. I took some video. And I wished for more time and for a mountain’s worth of do-overs. But, I knew that ship had sailed. As I watched The Halifax head out through the Narrows, I accepted that the time for embracing my son physically were pretty much done, at least for a bit, and now it was time to embrace the letting go. It’s not easy, though. While I’m incredibly proud, I’d take the agony of stepping on a stray Lego block over the heart pain of watching that ship sail out the Narrows.