Armed Forces Emergency Responders stamp unveiled
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, Major Alexandre Hottin of Canadian Forces Base Valcartier was eager to leave with his girlfriend on a camping trip. Their vehicle was already packed when his phone rang.
He was ordered to report to the base. Instead of taking his gear and her into the green wild, he was soon taking shovels and sandbags to rising floodwaters. Montréalers needed the military’s help: A deluge of rain had fallen for days, threatening people and property. He didn’t return home for 15 days.
“For me, and I’m sure it is the same thing for people in uniform, it is an experience that I would do again anytime, Maj. Hottin said. “The Canadian soldier puts Canada first.”
Maj. Hottin was speaking to about 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) at Valcartier on Tuesday, Sept. 11. They were gathered to unveil a new Canada Post stamp that pays tribute to members of the Armed Forces for their role as emergency responders.
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All three branches of the military attended: Royal Canadian Air Force members with blue wedge caps, Canadian Army soldiers in green camouflage and dark berets, Royal Canadian Navy personnel in crisp whites and caps.
It was the second event in a week of unveilings. The five-stamp Emergency Responders issue pays tribute to the courageous members of the CAF, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and search and rescue experts who protect and assist Canadians in emergencies. With each stamp, Canada Post was expressing Canadians’ gratitude.
CAF members, whether Regular Force or Reserve Force, are sometimes asked to drop everything to assist Canadians and communities in peril from natural disasters such as floods, wildfires and ice storms.
Once the request from a province or territory is approved by the federal government, they deploy to the disaster or emergency to conduct evacuations, deliver aid, provide transportation, execute search and rescue missions, among many other tasks.
There have been dozens of these Operation LENTUS missions in recent years. This year alone, the CAF answered the call in August (almost 600 forest fires in B.C.); May (the evacuation of 140 people threatened by fire in Manitoba, and flood relief in B.C. and New Brunswick); and April (floods at Kashechewan First Nation in Ontario).
Legendary singer Renée Martel was a special guest performer at the unveiling. Before the videos and speeches at the event, she said she did not realize the extent of the military’s role when disaster strikes.
“I am so impressed – and I want to thank you,” she said. Scheduled to perform only two songs, she broke into a third: her 1972 gold record, Un amour qui ne veut pas mourir. The spontaneous tribute had even young CAF members singing along – and it elicited another standing ovation.
The unveiling also included a sombre moment of silence to pay respect for the victims of 9/11, and for the Canadians who gave their lives in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the years that followed that fateful Tuesday morning. More than 40,000 CAF members served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, and 158 of them made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Armed Forces stamp and all the Emergency Responders stamps are available for purchase on canadapost.ca and at postal outlets across Canada.