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Families welcome HMCS Winnipeg back from long mission in Indo-Pacific

Nine-year-old Athena Stone yelled “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” as she waited excitedly for her father, Master Sailor Andy Stone, to get off HMCS Winnipeg after it reached the jetty.

She said her father had been gone “for a really, really, really long time” and things are “sad” when he’s away. He was among 256 people who left on a four-and-a-half month deployment in the Indo-Pacific that started Aug. 17.

Having him home in time for Christmas will be great, she said, adding she has a special present ready for him, although she didn’t want to say what it was.

Athena said the first order of business when he’s off the ship is to hug him. “I’m going to hug him so hard.”

Mom Melissa Stone said she is used to the time her husband has to spend away. “My dad’s navy, my sister-in-law’s navy, my brother was navy, so I don’t mind.”

She said the family stayed in contact via Facetime video calls.

Ang Jimmo said her shipside reunion with husband, James, was one for the books.

“First kiss I’ve had in five months and it’s the best I’ve had in years,” she said with a laugh.

Petty Officer first class James Jimmo, operations chief on HMCS Winnipeg, said the ship was on an important mission.

That mission included Operation Neon, in support of the UN Security Council resolution enforcing and monitoring sanctions against North Korea.

“We went away on operation helping the whole world, but it’s always good to be home with family and friends right in time for Christmas,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to spending time with my kids, grandkids.”

He said his wife was also in the navy and is a big support for him and his work.

“That helps a lot when I’m away and have to focus on what I’m doing,” he said, noting HMCS Winnipeg will be off again next year for six months. “You do back-to-back deployments — it’s what the job is when you sign on,” he said.

HMCS Winnipeg Cmdr. Doug Layton hung a sign from the ship asking his wife, Amanda, to “marry me all over again” after 20 years together.

Her answer was “of course.”

Getting home was “a long time coming,” he said.

“It wasn’t the longest deployment I’ve ever been on, but it felt really long because we spent 91 per cent of the time actually at sea, only about nine per cent in port,” he said. “But even in the ports, they were very restrictive, so I’m very happy to be on dry land and very happy to be back home in Canada with my beautiful wife, Amanda.”

HMCS Winnipeg spent time around Japan, the Korean peninsula and the Philippines.

“We want to make sure we have a persistent presence at all times and that we’re doing our part to maintain a free and open market and a free and open society,” Layton said.

jbell@timescolonist.com