Naval Reserve centennial gala honours history, sets sights on progress
By Ryan Melanson,
Current and former members of HMCS Scotian marked the Naval Reserve centennial in style on April 22, joining Royal Canadian Navy colleagues, local government representatives and members of the wider community for a gala dinner at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel in Halifax.
The night was a celebration of the history and accomplishments of the Naval Reserve, but keynote speaker Lt(N) (Ret’d) Lennett Anderson also took the opportunity to touch on more difficult topics as he spoke to fellow Scotian alumni.
Anderson, now the senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hammonds Plains, joined the Naval Reserve in 1994, and later commissioned from the ranks to become the unit Chaplain for Scotian and for the Atlantic Region.
Even in the 1990s, he noted, a black person in a Canadian wardroom was a rare sight, and Anderson recalled the pain of receiving racist comments from superior officers, along with silence from shipmates. The experience early in his naval career made him consider quitting, but led him to choose resiliency instead.
“I had to come to the realization that my value did not decrease based on someone’s inability to see my worth.”
Anderson encouraged his colleagues in the room to be leaders in ongoing efforts to renew the culture of the Navy and the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We can unlock a tremendous potential for attracting and gaining and retaining another generation of exceptional leaders,” he said.
“If you are in this organization and not willing to lead the change, you may be part of the problem.”
Anderson also highlighted the many opportunities he gained through his Naval Reserve career, the military influence that still guides his ministry today, and the many long-lasting relationships that were born from his time with Scotian.
“I am eternally grateful for the sage advice, the faithful example, and the dedicated sacrificial service that many Scotian members provided to a young sailor in their midst,” he said.
Rear-Admiral Brian Santarpia, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, focused on history in speaking to the audience, and described the establishment of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1923 as a critical moment in RCN history, one that helped combat Canada’s maritime blindness.
“Just 16 years later, when Canada entered World War II, that Naval Reserve was the basis for creating the third largest Navy in the world, with over 100,000 officers and sailors, from all across the country.”
LCdr Ron Hearnshaw, as Scotian’s acting Commanding Officer for the occasion, thanked the Scotian family and others for their attendance and their contributions so far to the Naval Reserve’s 100th anniversary celebrations. The unit has put an extra focus on being present at community events through 2023 and has planned a number of activities to mark the centennial.
“We have a huge presence and all these different things we’re doing this year, and it’s happening because we have so many Scotian members who were ready to step up and participate in our centennial committee,” he said.