Special delivery

Military postal clerks relay thousands of care packages sent by families to deployed CFB Esquimalt personnel

Cpl. Sean Coloren examines packages with the help of an X-ray machine while Cpl. Maureen McGarrigle checks addresses before putting them in a bin at the base post office at CFB Esquimalt.

Cpl. Sean Coloren examines packages with the help of an X-ray machine while Cpl. Maureen McGarrigle checks addresses before putting them in a bin at the base post office at CFB Esquimalt.

A parcel slowly moves along a conveyor belt, stopping briefly inside an X-ray scanner while CFB Esquimalt postal clerk Cpl. Sean Caloren takes a closer look at the contents of the care package.

He squints at orange and blue-green shapes that appear on the X-ray screen.

“That looks like a cookie tin,” he says.

He presses a button and the parcel, destined for a crewmember aboard ****HMCS Vancouver which is spending the holidays patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, continues along the belt until postal clerk Cpl. Maureen McGarrigle scoops it up.

She admires the brown paper packaging covered with foil heart stickers and colourful marker and crayon drawings. One message written on the package stands out: “We you.”

McGarrigle turns the package over.

“More artwork. It’s all over,” she says smiling. “I would keep the whole package.”

Even in this high-tech age of satellite telephones and email, clerks with the Canadian Forces Postal Service, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011, agree that snail mail is as popular as ever, especially during the holidays.

“It’s a good morale booster,” says Warrant Officer Luc Gunville, manager of the fleet mail office at CFB Esquimalt’s dockyard.

About 10 military postal clerks work out of two post offices at the base, shipping thousands of packages and letters between Canadian bases and stations and to members deployed around the world.

Christmas and New Year’s are keeping military postal staff hopping. Last year was busier with thousands of troops serving in Afghanistan. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 kilograms of parcels and letters were sent out from CFB Esquimalt over the holidays.

But this holiday season the outflow of packages and cards passing through the base post office to ****HMCS Vancouver has been non-stop. The vessel left CFB Esquimalt in July and is not expected home until February.

When ships reach scheduled ports, military traffic technicians meet them with bags of goodies from home.

Capt. Robb Allen, a Sea King helicopter pilot serving aboard *****Vancouver, says the care packages his wife Kerri McDonnell sends once a month have helped him get through his longest deployment.

Allen has received supplies such as deodorant, a book on childcare he promised he would read, chocolate bars and photos of their three-year-old daughter River and one-and-a-half-year-old son Paxton.

Email and telephone calls help them connect, but time on the computer is limited and Robb is only permitted 15 minutes on the phone every three days. The parcels make all the difference.

“It’s a touch from home,” he says in a recent telephone call. “One of the worst things about being out here is being away from things that are familiar.”

****Vancouver has so far received 306 bags of mail, weighing 4,702 kilograms. Another 78 bags will be waiting for them at their next two port visits. Personnel, meanwhile, have sent out at least 44 bags of personal mail, much of it souvenirs for loved ones keeping the home fires burning.

“Work stops when (the ship’s company) sees the mail bags being carried onboard or when they hear my name being piped to the flight deck. They know what it means: ‘mail call!’” Sgt. Renè Gagnè, the vessel’s senior meteorological technician, unit security supervisor and mail officer, says in a recent email.

As well as receiving official correspondence and packages from families, different organizations and retired personnel have sent over newspapers, magazines and movies, and well-wishes have come in from schoolchildren and military cadets.

“Everyone turns into little boys and girls when the mail is here and if the (crew isn’t) busy storing groceries or (removing) garbage, they would all be at the door waiting or casually walking into the (ship’s) sorting place,” Gagnè says. “I’ve even had to gently chase (Capt. Robb Allan, who helps sort mail) out so we can finish with the sorting. Those guys, including the captain, just want to grab their packages and run!”

At home, postal clerks sometimes receive thank-you cards from deployed crew members, but many say their reward comes from seeing members’ faces light up at the sight of mail from home.

“You see grown men with tears in their eyes because they got that letter from their child or their wife or mom and dad,” says Master Warrant Officer Debra Keegan, who heads the postal service’s western detachment, based at CFB Esquimalt.

“It’s fantastic. It’s a great feeling.”

 

Just Posted

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

Emergency health services treated a person after they were blocking traffic at the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets on June 17. (Evert Lindquist/ News Staff)
Victoria intersection traffic returns to normal after protester blocked roadway

A person in a motorized wheelchair was blocking the intersection at Fort and Douglas Streets

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read