POLITICS

HMCS Toronto returns home after six-month deployment to Mediterranean Sea

01/18/2015 11:24 EST | Updated 03/20/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Master seaman Kurt Sheppard smiled and closed his eyes as held and kissed his newborn baby girl for the first time on Sunday.

Sheppard was the first off HMCS Toronto when it arrived in Halifax after a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.

Waving a bouquet of red roses as he descended the stairs onto the jetty, Sheppard rushed over to hold his three-week-old daughter Sadie, who was born on Christmas Eve.

"I was very excited. I couldn't wait to see her," said Sheppard, standing next to his wife Stephanie and three-year-old son Colton. "I got lots of pictures. A new one every day. I would put it up on our office doors. I'd get lots of comments on how beautiful she was."

Dozens of people held yellow balloons and homemade signs as the ice-clad HMCS Toronto docked in Halifax harbour Sunday morning,

Crew members waved and yelled to their family members as chunks of ice broke free from the ship, falling into the harbour.

The warship was taking part in a NATO exercise in the Mediterranean Sea responding to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine.

Commanding officer Jason Armstrong said the frigate was the first Canadian ship in the Black Sea in 22 years.

“I was ever so proud of this crew. They did an amazing job,” he said, standing with his wife Monica and their children Sara and Jack.

In November, six crew members helped battle a fire and evacuate the burning building in Turkey after spotting the blaze while eating at a restaurant during a port visit in Antalya, said Armstrong.

"Any of our sailors would respond the same way," he said. "They helped save a couple people's lives and probably thousands of dollars of property over there. It was amazing. They paid the bill at the end of the dinner too."

The vessel was also buzzed by Russian military jets off the southern coast of Ukraine in September. The planes had circled HMCS Toronto in a manner that did not pose a threat.

Armstrong said he's happy to be home with his family.

"It was hard being away over Christmas," Armstrong said. "But people were there for us. We get thousands, tons of gifts, mementoes, shout-outs on Facebook and Twitter... the support of our country was awesome."

HMCS Fredericton left Halifax at the end of December to replace HMCS Toronto.

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