Ordinary Seaman Jeff McConnell locks lips on his wife

Reunion kisses flood deck of returning Canadian warship

HMCS Ottawa returns home from training exercise, diplomatic mission

Ordinary Seaman Jeff McConnell can now say he has travelled to the other side of the world and back.

But when he saw his wife Melissa waiting for him at the end of the ship’s gangplank at CFB Esquimalt Thursday, McConnell grinned like a little kid before taking her in his arms and pressing his lips against hers.

The View Royal couple was the first to kiss, just minutes after HMCS Ottawa was brought alongside a dockyard jetty after spending more than four months at sea. The ‘first kiss’ has special meaning for many navy couples, and has become something of a tradition when ships return after lengthy voyages.

While the ship was deployed June 6 to conduct a multinational training mission and pay diplomatic visits to Asia-Pacific nations, spouses waiting at home and sailors and officers on the warship purchased raffle tickets – one for $2 or three for $5 – for a chance to win the ‘first kiss’ prize.

The spouses alone purchased about $100 in ‘first-kiss’ tickets – money which goes to the ship’s family network fund to pay for social gatherings and other events for families when HMCS Ottawa personnel are deployed.

Melissa purchased six tickets, one of which was randomly drawn.

“I was pretty nervous (about kissing in front of the large crowd) all day long,” McConnell said smiling. “People kept reminding me. But I was happy we won.”

After the cheers died down after their peck, waiting family members were welcomed onto the deck of the warship, where many of the 253 crew members stood holding single red or white carnations.

“I’m just glad to be home,” said McConnell, pausing to answer one of the many questions his eldest daughter, Maddison, 6, peppered him with after they reunited.

“I’m looking forward to just getting back to a normal routine instead of the ship’s routine (involving 12-hour work days),” the father of three said.

HMCS Ottawa participated in Operation Talisman Sabre – a three-week biennial warfare exercise involving 14,000 Canadian, U.S. and Australian military forces, among others – off the northeast coast of Australia.

“It’s really about practising what we do when we’re deployed in operations,” said Commodore Peter Ellis, who commands the Royal Canadian Navy’s West Coast fleet.

There were also stops at Singapore, Japan and South Korea to strengthen diplomatic and operational relations, and conduct charity work, such as visiting a South Korean orphanage and raising $7,000 for Japanese earthquake survivors.

“A ship going to a foreign port is basically is a little part of Canada – it’s a sovereign territory,” Ellis said, adding the visits are a chance to showcase Canada’s naval capabilities around the world. “I’m biased, but I think I can be impartial here and say, (these warships are) the best, if not among the best, in the world.”

Just Posted

Saanich firefighters save Remembrance Day ceremony at retirement home

The flag cord broke and crews worked to get it back up in time for the ceremony

Christian minister accused of transphobia draws small audience, protesters in Sidney

Art Lucier is ‘100 per cent’ sure would-be audience stayed away because of perceived controversy

Christmas lights appear on Oak Bay Avenue

Installation marks the countdown to the annual Christmas Light Up

Victoria women’s program in critical need of household items for women

Everything from dining sets to beds is needed to keep their programs running

Peninsula Panthers face nemesis Victoria Cougars Friday night

Cougars are the only Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League team to have beaten the local Cats twice

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Woman airlifted with serious injuries after being struck by car in Nanaimo

Woman, hit in crosswalk, suffers life-threatening injuries; driver co-operating with police

B.C. teacher suspended for incessantly messaging student, writing friendship letter

Female teacher pursued Grade 12 student for friendship even after being rebuked

Vancouver Island substitute teacher said he wanted a student to ‘whack’ two others on Grade 8 field trip

Campbell River teacher-on-call suspended three weeks after November 2018 incident

Disney Plus streaming service hits Canada with tech hurdles

Service costs $8.99 per month, or $89.99 per year, in Canada

Trudeau’s opponents: One gives him an earful, another seeks common ground

PM meets with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe

Rona’s ‘truly Canadian’ ads are inaccurate, watchdog says

Ads Standards points out U.S.-based Lowe’s acquired Rona in 2016

Most Read