A special ceremony was held at HMC Dockyard Friday morning to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait.
In August 1990, three naval ships left Halifax with little warning to respond to the crisis. Iraqi armed forces had taken over Kuwait and civilian casualties were adding up.
HMCS Terra Nova, Athabaskan and Protecteur were part of Operation FRICTION, Canada’s contribution to a coalition of 35 nations trying to remove the occupying forces.
“We sailed out of here and I don’t think we’ll ever forget it because the citizens of this province and this city and the cities around the area lined the jetty,” said Vice-Admiral (Ret.) Duncan Miller.
“There were thousands and thousands that waved goodbye to us.”
In total, about 4,500 Canadian Armed Forces members were deployed. The three warships were Canada’s first military contributions, followed by CF-18 warplanes, as well as medical, communications, logistical and security units.
A coalition-led armoured and infantry ground offensive began on Feb. 24, 1991, which eventually pushed the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Coalition forces ended the offensive a week later and offered a ceasefire, which Iraq eventually accepted.
Friday’s ceremony at HMC Dockyard brought together veterans and current serving members to commemorate that anniversary.
“I think it’s an honour that’s a little bit overdue in some ways,” said Lars Legaarden, who was a petty officer second class on HMCS Terra Nova during the Gulf War.
“I realize it was 25 years ago. Nobody really thought it was a big war at the time but it’s been shown to have led into other things and I think most of us are very proud to have been there [and] did what we did because at the time nobody knew what was going to happen.”
That sense of uncertainty is something Rear Admiral John Newton can relate to. The Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic was a young navigator when he was deployed on HMCS Protecteur during the Gulf War.
“I was a young officer, had just gotten my trade qualifications and you find yourself involved implicated in such an epic campaign,” Newton said.
“I was dropped into it, literally, with 300 other people by an aircraft days before the war started. Then, there was an intense amount of uncertainty in our lives.”
Newton says one of the biggest lessons from the conflict was the importance of preparedness and being ready to respond to conflict with little to no warning.
He says that lesson is something that has changed our armed forces to this very day.