March 30, 2016 6:23 pm
Updated: March 30, 2016 11:18 pm

SAR member launches petition for service medal awards

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After going missing and spending a frigid night on Mount Seymour, a 26-year-old American snowboarder was reunited with his family on Wednesday. After an eight-hour search, North Shore Rescue located the man at 3:30 a.m. and a team of five stayed with him all night, giving him soup and warm Gatorade.

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While the rescue could be considered a ‘routine’ call for the elite volunteer squad, the danger each ‘call out’ presents is a whole other story. When search and rescue teams head out, they potentially can be putting their own lives on the line.

That reason is why one search and rescue team member is hoping the federal government will start recognizing the work these unsung heroes do with a service medal.

READ MORE: North Shore Rescue being stretched physically and financially to the limit

Nick Kerr, who is a Juan de Fuca Ground SAR volunteer on Vancouver Island, has started a petition with the goal of 5,000 to 10,000 signatures. When Kerr reaches his goal, he will be presenting the petition and a research paper to the Governor General’s Office.

Believing the service medal is long overdue for SAR volunteers, Kerr said they work alongside seven out of nine services listed in the Canadian Honors Chart that receive a service medal. He notes on the petition that exemplary service honours already exist for the RCMP, military, fire, the Canadian Coast Guard and paramedics.

Since starting the petition four weeks ago, Kerr has gathered over 1,000 signatures and is hoping to still get more.

SAR volunteers say they do the work to help and be part of their communities as a public service, and not for the recognition.

But looking at the national statistics — in 2011 with 288 teams comprised of 8,978 volunteer SAR members, there were more than 1,900 searches conducted with 142,270 hours spent searching and almost 64,000 training hours logged by volunteers — a medal to recognize SAR members’ dedication to their communities may not be such an unreasonable request.

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