Soldiers return from refugee mission: 'We were helping to change lives'

OROMOCTO, N.B. -- The first of the Canadian troops sent to Lebanon and Jordan to help process Syrian refugees destined for Canada have returned home, saying the smiles on the faces of young Syrian children made it worthwhile.

See Full Article

"All it takes is seeing one little one the same age as my daughter -- smiling because they are going to Canada," said Major Drew Willis, who was among 68 soldiers who arrived to waiting family members early Tuesday at Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

They were among the 230 soldiers who left Canada in mid-November as part of Operation Provision, assisting with the federal government's initiative to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of February.

Warrant Officer Stephen Mills and his wife Wendy kissed and hugged as they reunited. The two spoke to reporters about their experience over the last month-and-a-half -- Stephen in Beirut and Wendy at home in New Maryland, N.B.

Q: Was it difficult to have him away?

Wendy Mills: It's kind of a hard time of year to have him away with snowstorms and power outages and everything. It's a long wait, but I'm so proud of him for what he was doing.

When we saw the first refugees land, I was just so proud to know that he was over there, kind of starting the process and being part of the process. He would tell me stories about the kids over there.

Q: Can you share some of those stories about the kids and what you experienced?

Stephen Mills: I was in Beirut, Lebanon, and we worked at the processing centre where families would come in.

It was mostly families with little kids, and where I have kids myself, you see the personal experience where you see these kids coming from refugee camps. It was humbling to see them and see the looks in their faces.

They seen us there, especially in uniform, Canadians helping them get from there to here. It was different from my other deployments in the past.

Q: What resonated most for you? What did you take away from the experience?

Stephen Mills: Just the fact that we were helping to change lives ... just to know they were getting something better. That's pretty much what kept us going.

Q: Fredericton is one of the areas where the Syrian immigrants will be located. There's a chance you could see someone here that you helped relocate.

Stephen Mills: We live in New Maryland and there is a family there.

Wendy Mills: We could see them at the gas station, or elsewhere. It's going to be nice.

Q: For some of the public who may not be sure about what has been happening, what would you say to them?

Stephen Mills: We are doing a really important thing. I think it's an important mission that will keep going on. We're trying to help these people.

Wendy Mills: You just put yourself in their shoes, like if you were in the same position. I really hope that a country would step up and help us as well as much as Canada has.

When you see that with young children, I don't know what I would do. To uproot yourself from your house and your work and to settle somewhere with nothing or whatever they have.

Q: Is there one image you take away from your experience there?

Stephen Mills: To see the looks in their faces. The happiness when they came in and left and they just knew that they were coming here.

At that point they were going on an airplane and getting to Canada, and we just knew that we were just a small part of that bigger piece that was making it happen.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 'Your son is alive'; California father buries wrong man after coroner’s mistake

    World News Toronto Sun
    SANTA ANA, Calif. — Eleven days after laying his son to rest, Frank J. Kerrigan got a call from a friend. “Your son is alive,” he said. “Bill (Shinker) put my son on the phone,” Kerrigan said. Source
  • Al Capone's song, pocket watch fetch over $100K at auction

    World News Toronto Sun
    BOSTON — Artifacts connected to some of the nation’s most notorious gangsters sold for more than $100,000 at auction Saturday. A diamond pocket watch that belonged to Al Capone and was produced in Chicago in the 1920s, along with a handwritten musical composition he wrote in Alcatraz in the 1930s, were among the items that sold at the “Gangsters, Outlaws and Lawmen” auction. Source
  • Venezuelan protesters, security forces clash at air base

    World News CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela -- Young protesters broke down a metal fence guarding an air base in Caracas on Saturday before being repelled by security forces firing tear gas in another day of anti-government protests in Venezuela's capital. Source
  • Venezuelan president's opponents lay siege to air base

    World News CBC News
    Young protesters broke down a metal fence guarding an air base in Caracas on Saturday before being repelled by security forces firing tear gas in another day of anti-government protests in Venezuela's capital. Demonstrators threw stones, and some protesters were injured. Source
  • Lots to be proud of on Canada's 150th

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    So this great country of ours Canada is about to turn 150. Well, happy sesquicentennial to us. Although, it was a lot easier to pronounce “centennial” 50 years ago. And what a great year that was. Bobby Gimby sang, “Canada – now we are 20 million. Source
  • Race was a factor in St. Louis black officer mistakenly shot by white cop: lawyer

    World News CTV News
    An off-duty black St. Louis police officer's race factored into him being mistakenly shot by a white officer who didn't recognize him after a shootout with black suspects this week, the wounded officer's lawyer contends. Source
  • Labatt celebrates 170 years of heritage ahead of Canada's 150th [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    If any nation knows how to quaff a cold one, it has to be Canada. Our famous brew is one of the most coveted drinks in the world. It’s part of our nationalistic identity, and we’re proud of it! Source
  • Four-year-old boy is dead after being hit by car

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    EDMONTON - Edmonton Police say a four-year-old boy died in hospital after he was hit by a vehicle on 44A Avenue near 35 Street around 8:15 p.m. on Friday. Traffic section officers are investigating, but no charges are pending. Source
  • 34 U.K. high-rises have unsafe siding: Officials

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — The scope of Britain’s fire-safety crisis broadened Saturday as London officials scrambled to evacuate four public housing towers due to concerns about external cladding, fire doors and insulation around gas pipes. Hundreds of residents hastily packed their bags and sought emergency shelter, with many angry and confused about the chaotic situation. Source
  • Video of Quebec history float goes viral amid allegations of racism

    Canada News CBC News
    A float in Montreal's Fête nationale parade Saturday quickly prompted widespread rebuke online with some attendees calling it racist. The float went along St. Denis Street carrying singer Annie Villeneuve and a pianist, along with a billboard that said "Once upon a time…" in French. Source