'One of my proudest moments': Army reservists work to save Cumberland homes

A unit made up of army reservists has been working to help save homes in Cumberland, as record-breaking flood waters continue to rise in Ottawa.

'It's one of my proudest moments'

3 years ago
Sgt. Ryan Moss and Cpl. Afton Maisonneuve, both Canadian Armed Forces reservists, say they're proud to be helping residents save their homes in Cumberland. 0:58

Most of the year, Rosana Veliz works at a desk job at TD Bank.

But on Tuesday, Cpl. Veliz was out carrying sandbags along the river, shoring up homes at risk of flooding in Ottawa's Cumberland neighbourhood.

She only had 24 hours notice to make the switch from office worker to army reservist.  

"It means a lot to be able to help the people, the homeowners who have been affected," Veliz said. 

Veliz is a member of 33 Domestic Response Company, a reserve unit assisting the regular force with the emergency flood response in Ottawa.

Last week the unit worked to protect the Lemieux Island Water Purification Plant. On Saturday, they were deployed to the east-end community of Cumberland.

Cpl. Rosana Veliz splits her time between working in a bank and being an army reservist. Members of 33 Domestic Response Company have helped protect 20 homes in Cumberland from flooding. (Jennifer Chevalier / CBC)

"It's pretty important to be in situations like this to be able to support and help Canada. It's one of my proudest moments," said Sgt. Ryan Moss.

The electrician from Athens, Ont., served six months in Afghanistan as a reservist, but is just as proud of the effort he's making at home.

"It's one thing to be able to serve overseas for a different country, but to be serving here in Canada is something else. It's a very humbling, very humbling experience," Moss said. 

So far the company has helped save 20 homes from flooding, focusing on those on the lakeshore and on Morin Road. They aren't sure how long they'll be in Cumberland, or where they're headed next.

Sgt. Ryan Moss and other members of 33 Domestic Response Company take a short break from sandbagging homes. 'We're going to probably go home with a couple of extra pounds,' Moss said, because the local community has been thanking them with cookies. (Jennifer Chevalier / CBC)

The opportunity to assist in moments of domestic crisis is why many people sign up for the army reserves, according to MajGord Scharf, the officer commanding the 33 Domestic Response Company.

"One of the key things that reservists are asked to do is respond to emergencies just like this." Scharf told CBC News. 

Ottawa lawyer Afton Maisonneuve, a corporal with the company, says she joined to help people. 

"Even if it's one person, one home, anything, it's all matters," Maisonneuve said.

Cpl. Afton Maisonneuve is an Ottawa lawyer who is a member of the army reserves. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

On Monday the company worked with engineers to build a wall that saved one waterfront house from flooding. She said homeowners have been grateful. 

"They say 'thank you for your service', and you kind of feel a bit awkward, because what am I actually really doing? I feel like I don't deserve it, but it's just really nice... it gives you the warm fuzzies," Maisonneuve said. 

Cpl. David Claxton, a Carleton University student, was involved with efforts to prevent the Lemieux Water Treatment Plant from flooding. 

"The water is now half way up the barricades we put there, so if we hadn't been able to do that, then that water treatment plant might have gone down, and the city would have suffered for that," Claxton said.

Reserve Cpl. David Claxton is studying humanities at Carleton University. This last week he's been helping protect infrastructure and homes in Ottawa. (Jennifer Chevalier / CBC )

Claxton says helping with the flooding has been an eye-opener. 

"Disaster relief is always something you see on the news as being somewhere else. When I got on the ground and it was here — like 30 minutes from my house — that was a moment for me," Claxton said. 

"I'm quite proud to say I made a legitimate difference and a positive impact for my city."