52 soldiers return to Gagetown after helping Syrian refugees

About four dozen soldiers are arriving at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown on Tuesday morning after working in Lebanon and Jordan to help process Syrian refugees.

Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment were in Lebanon, Jordan to help process refugees

Watch Canadian soldiers and their families reflect on their mission to Lebanon and Jordan to help Syrian refugees 1:03
About four dozen soldiers arrived at the Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown on Tuesday morning after working in Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan, to help process Syrian refugees destined for Canada.

They were greeted with hugs and smiles from spouses and children, who got up early to see them arrive back in New Brunswick.

There were 68 military personnel on the return flight, including 52 from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown. (CBC)
The military personnel spent the last months supporting staff from the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The soldiers either did security patrol, data entry, or helped with the medical screenings.

There were 68 military personnel on the return flight, including 52 from 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.

The other soldiers went on to military bases in Trenton, Ont., and elsewhere in Canada. They were part of a 230-member contingent sent by Canada to help process Syrian refugees.

About 150 Canadian armed forces personnel are still in Jordan and Lebanon to help with the Syrian refugees with medical screening and application processing.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a statement on Tuesday morning, thanking the military personnel for their work in helping bring the refugees to Canada.

Family and friends were on hand in the RCR building on the base to greet the soldiers upon their return. (CBC)
"It has been rewarding for the Canadian Armed Forces to support our government partners in the complex effort to resettle Syrian refugees and help them find a sense of hope and safety in Canada," Sajjan said in the statement.

"Operation Provision has been a tremendous opportunity to showcase leadership and Canadian values on the world stage and we will continue to stand in support of this whole-of-government effort, ready to assist wherever and however we are needed."  

Most of the soldiers returning to Gagetown are from the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, which is normally an infantry unit.

Several soldiers who spoke with CBC News upon their return on Tuesday said the mission reaffirmed for them the need to help those seeking refuge in Canada.

"​You wouldn't believe some of the things that these people have gone through and to be there to help them bring them into Canada, is really quite special," said Pte. Matthew Pratt.

About four dozen soldiers arrived at the Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown on Tuesday morning after working in Lebanon and Jordan to help process Syrian refugees destined for Canada. (CBC)
For Maj. Drew Willis, he said the mission hit home for him on a very personal level.

"All it takes is seeing one little one about the same age as my daughter, smiling because they know they are going to Canada, it does a lot to change your mind," he said.

Cpl. Thomas Fitzpatrick said he spent his time in Beirut helping refugees get their visas printed and he drove people around to carry out their duties.

Now that he is home, Fitzpatrick said he plans to relax and spend time with his young family.

Emily Fitzpatrick said their family is eager to celebrate the holidays now that her husband is home.

"We kept the Christmas tree up so it will be nice to finally have him home, have another Christmas dinner and enjoy the holidays, a little delayed, but better later than never," she said.

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