EDMONTON – As Canada’s training mission in Afghanistan winds down, about 35 Canadian Armed Forces members returned home to Edmonton Friday afternoon, just in time to spend the holidays with their families.
“That’s the thing I’ve been looking forward to for the last six months,” said Master Warrant Officer Don Cormier of reuniting with his wife and two young children. “My daughter started talking since I’ve been away, so I’m glad to hear what she has to say to me.”
“I’m very excited to be home. I can tell you I’ve never felt anything like this before,” said Corporal William Ross, who has spent the last six months in Kabul, on his first deployment.
“Very excited to be home. Very excited to see my fiancée, be home for Christmas with my family. I’ll definitely be thinking, though, of the soldiers that are still there and hoping that they come home safe,” added Lieutenant John Mason, who got engaged just prior to being deployed for his first time six months ago.
One soldier even hid in a large, wrapped box because his five-year-old daughter had asked Santa for her dad to return home for Christmas.
It took some planning, but Master Corporal Olivier Favreau was able to sneak into his house and hide in the box while his daughter, Addison, was at the neighbour’s house. It’s a reunion both Favreau and his daughter have waited six months for.
WATCH: Five-year-old girl receives an early Christmas present – her dad
WATCH: Quinn Ohler has more on the heartfelt reunion
The soldiers were part of Canada’s contribution to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A), known as Operation ATTENTION. Soldiers were preparing the Afghan National Army, Afghan Air Force and Afghan National Police to take over security of the country when the mission ends in March 2014.
Ross says while the past six months have been a lot of hard work, it was also very rewarding.
“I was able to see how Afghanistan has changed compared to what I’ve heard from the guys who have gone there in past years. There’s actually kids walking to school in the morning when we’re out in the morning on convoy. It’s a good thing to see.”
Soldiers returning home to Edmonton were flown in to the Edmonton International Airport around 3:40 p.m. Friday. From there, they were escorted by police to the Edmonton Garrison, where they were reunited with their families.
“We’ll be heading south on a vacation, so I’ll be looking forward to that,” said Mason.
“We’re going to plan some hot vacation to get away from the cold here, and spend a lot of quality time with my kids and wife,” added Cormier.
“The anticipation’s over, he’s actually here. I’m not dreaming. It’s an awesome feeling,” Cormier’s wife, Jennifer Cormier, said with a huge smile on her face. “I’m going to grab onto him and I’m not letting him go.”
This particular redeployment saw a total of 107 Canadian Armed Forces members return home. Troops were also dropped off at CFB Trenton and Winnipeg Friday afternoon.
© Shaw Media, 2013