It was Mothers Day….

He wished his Kunshi and Mom were close to him many times when he was  serving aboard the HMCS ATHABASKAN.

His ship was patrolling the Persian Gulf and was fitted with Sea Sparrow Surface-to-Air Missiles and was part of a larger battle group assigned with protecting other ships when incoming enemy boats or aircraft were in attack mode.

He spent many years in the Navy and had earned the right to be called Petty Officer 1st class (PO1). he was the ‘Above Water Warfare Director’ (AWWD). and was responsible for the firing of any missiles that would be needed.

His last name was “Gun-Case” but most people just called him “Chief”. It bothered him to be labeled as such and got into many confrontations when he asked other Sailors to call him by his real name. After awhile he just accepted that it would not change and tolerated it for the most part.

“Your Great Grandfather was a Cree Warrior who fought against the Canadian Soldiers in the early days,” his dad told him when he was just a young boy.

The soldiers were attacking them but they were ready for them and forced them back into a hasty retreat. One of the soldier boys lost his gun case off his horse when they were falling back and it laid on the battlefield. Your great Grandfather ran up and claimed it between all the bullets. He earned the name “Gun-Case” that day.

“That is how we got the name as a family name. Always be proud of it,” His dad told him.

Now he was in the weapons command centre. He was a member of the Naval Electronic Sensor Operator (or NESOP) trade, a group that specializes in Electronic Warfare and Fire Control.

The call came in for suspected enemy aircraft quickly approaching. They went into immediate alert and he was at his station. Radar showed that there were 5 hostile aircraft approaching.

Weapons ready – full battle readiness.
The ‘Operations Room Officer’ (ORO) was in direct communication with PO1 ‘Gun-Case’
There was no denying that the enemy craft were in attack mode.
“Toggle on” the ORO commanded.
“Toggle On” replied Gun-Case.
The aircraft were coming into range.
“Toggle off” was the next command.
“Toggle Off” Gun-Case replied.
A large bang and whoosh and away went the missiles

Chatter was still coming in over the comm but all he knew was silence….. he listened very carefully for the next command.
Once again:
“Toggle on!!!” but with more urgency in the voice of the ORO.
“Toggle on.”
“Toggle Off!!!”
“Toggle Off.” Once again a loud bang and whoosh.

“Toggle on.”
“Toggle on,” He replied back once again.
“Toggle off.”
“Toggle off.”

Silence… He knew this feeling of anticipation.
Not a word was spoken anywhere.
Two aircraft were hit and the others retreated.

His mind rang with the ‘Father to Son’ song sung to honour sons. His uncle would sing that to him all the time. I am proud of you ‘Wakinyan Duuta’. You are a brave young boy and we wish you a safe return.

The words to the song rang out in his mind.
Look at that handsome boy
He has stood in front of the enemy
He was not afraid of them.
Look at the handsome boy
We will honour his family
He was not afraid of them
Look at that handsome boy
He stood in front of the enemy
He was not afraid of them
Look at that handsome Boy
He has returned home to us
He was not afraid of them

He knew what his duties were and he carried them out with the precision and discipline he was trained to do.

He killed the enemy – in the distance – and all he felt was sadness.

He wished they would have turned away before he could fire. Who were they? he didn’t hate them. They probably had family waiting for them as well, but… they would not be returning to any kinship songs.

They would be somewhere in that vast ocean.

Alone… doing what they too were commanded to do. Like all of us…

Mom I am so sorry for what I have done.

Kunshi, I am sad and afraid.

“It is hard to be brave when they are humans too.”

Warriors honouring warriors

The next day he took food to the deck and offered it to the enemy.

He sang the “Food Offering” song.

Pouring the food off the starboard side of the ship he sang the “My Heart is Calling” Kinship song.

He was unaware of the other Navy personnel watching and if he did he would not care anyways.

He sang the songs he was taught.

“The Sing Me Home” Song and “My Friend is Gone” song

His eyes teared up and so did many of the other men who stood beside him.

They finally understood…

They would not be calling him “Chief” anymore. He was Petty Officer 1st Class – ‘Gun-Case’

“Isagha I tried to live up to our family name.”

Kunshi I am sorry for what I have done.

I am coming home now…

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