HMCS Athabaskan returned to Halifax yesterday morning, marking the end of an eight-week mission to Haiti.
And, as Cmdr. Peter Crane put it, “mission accomplished.”
The 240-person crew was welcomed back by family and friends standing on a sunlit navy dockyard pier. As the ship pulled in, cheers and greetings were shouted back and forth between the pier and the deck.
The ship was docked outside of Léogâne, a small city near the epicentre of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake. Crane said the buildings in the area were almost completely destroyed.
“The areas that we were working in were incredibly devastated,” he said. “Ninety per cent of the houses are uninhabitable.”
Upon arrival, Crane’s crew focused on delivering medical supplies, water and food to Haitians. Later, they turned their attention to building shelter, including four orphanages. Crane said while the Haiti they left had a long way to go, he was proud of the work they did.
“We have left it better,” he said. “Is it better over the long term? Don’t know. It’s too big a question to answer … but from what we saw on the first day, on the 19th of January, when we flew over that city and when we walked around? It is in better shape.”
Crane said the mission profoundly affected his crew, so much so he decided to slightly alter the Athabaskan’s motto.
“The ship’s motto is ‘We fight as one,’ and after about three or four days in Haiti, I realized that that deserved to be modified,” Crane said. “‘We help as one.’ We flew that signal on our flag … when we came up the harbour this morning.”